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Federal Spotlight Interview: Nathaniel H. Benjamin

Posted by on Jun 21, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Nathaniel H. Benjamin

  MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? I’ve been in Federal Service excluding military time for about 15 years and my main responsibility is managing the Human Capital Office for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under that responsibility, I’m responsible for talent acquisition for general schedule employees. Additionally, we manage the executive resources program for our Senior Executive Service members and our political staff. We also manage the diversity and inclusion programs, learning and development, employee engagement, outreach, employee relations, performance management, and data collection and reporting. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? We are in such a place of change when it comes to the Federal Service. We have Baby Boomers that are exiting. And as Baby Boomers are exiting, it’s creating new opportunities for Generation X and Generation Y. As these opportunities present themselves, it creates a landscape for public servants to see change right before their eyes. For me, it’s an opportunity to continually build a solid career and, down-the-line, position myself so that I can hopefully be a change agent for Washington, as well as the Federal Government at large. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? I would say one of the biggest achievements that I’ve had is coming into my position. We had a hundred percent turnover. I am currently the most seasoned veteran. When I came in, one of the charges was to bring the office into the 21st century; to be more strategic; to be more aligned with the organization. Because those were the marching orders that I received, I made it a point to make sure that I hired a staff that was capable of making these things happen. It’s great if you have one person come in, but anybody who is in management understands that the staff really can make or break the organization. And so, I hired in a top-talented staff, or as I call them, my varsity squad; because there was no room for JV players. Within 18 months, we brought in more automated processes and website development. We really ramped up our employee engagement efforts to include staff partnering with our senior leadership to create a Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Work Plan focusing on D&I as a part of the institution and not just a program that resides in Human Capital. By getting engagement around the entire organization, we’ve been able to establish what we know as diversity and inclusion dialogues. Additionally, we have created a program known as “Community Spaces” where our employees with different backgrounds, perspectives, life styles, and work experiences can feel safe to engage in constructive dialogues – in a confidential setting — because we know that who you are and what you bring to the office has a critical impact on the work that you perform. We want our workforce to feel that they can bring their whole self to work, because that is when they can do their best. The total person is very important. We were intentional when it came to promoting Special Emphasis Programs (SEP) and it’s very important for each month where we acknowledge and celebrate specific groups. And so, each month that there is a...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Kim Bauhs

Posted by on Apr 18, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Kim Bauhs

  MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KB: I made a mid-career move to join the Federal Service in 2000. Prior to that, I spent 9 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy and another 8 years with the Virginia State Government. I was ready for a change, and loved the flexibility – and opportunity – that came with joining our Country’s largest employer. I am currently the head of Human Resources (HR) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an organization of 12,000 dedicated scientists and program administrators who use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision-makers with the reliable information they need, when they need it. NOAA’s Mission: Science, Service and Stewardship To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts To share that knowledge and information with others To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources The work is fascinating. My team of HR professionals provide tools and guidance to ensure NOAA has the talent needed to accomplish the mission, and promote a work environment that enables optimal employee performance. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KB: I’ve never wanted to work anywhere else. Mission is what drives me, and the Federal Government has some of the most exciting and meaningful jobs in the world. But more importantly, our customers are the American People. As public servants, we are not here to generate revenue, but rather are motivated by a “higher calling” to serve others. We’re here to protect our nation and its resources; to provide essential services to the public and ensure long-term economic prosperity; to fight deadly diseases such as cancer and HIV; and to care for those who need our help. I’m proud to be a public servant, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KB: I’m working towards it now! At NOAA, and more broadly across the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), we are changing the way we deliver HR services. In 2017, we began moving transactional functions to a shared “enterprise” approach, where efficiencies are gained through process improvements and technology solutions. As these day-to-day operations (e.g. personnel actions, benefits, payroll, etc.) are migrated to the DOC Enterprise Services Organization (ESO), the NOAA HR team focuses more on providing human capital guidance to our customers. We are reshaping ourselves to serve as strategic partners with our mission areas, guiding them to make effective decisions on how to attract, develop, and retain the workforce they need. This 3-year transformation is the most comprehensive change management initiative I’ve led. It affects every aspect of our work – and impacts the thousands of internal customers we serve at NOAA. We have much more to do to achieve the goals we’ve set, but we are making progress. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? KB: A few things come to mind: Know that every organization has a degree of “bureaucracy.” This is not unique to government. The key is to learn your organization inside and out. Gain insights into how decisions are made and who is in a position to...

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Federal Spotlight: Lawrence Gross

Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Lawrence Gross

Federal Spotlight: Lawrence Gross retired recently from his role as Chief Information Officer, Chief Privacy Officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview:  MC: How long were you in Federal service, and what were your main responsibilities and roles? LG: I started my Federal career when I Joined the U.S. Navy in July 1976.  Leaving active service in 1986, I joined the Naval Reserves (retiring from Naval Service in November 2000) and began my Federal civilian service.  I’ve had the privilege to work across several different agencies, including Department of Treasury (DOT), Department of Energy (DOE), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Justice (DOJ) – to name a few. This past January, I brought my public service career to a close, retiring from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).   MC: What kept you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? LG: I have spent my entire adult life in service to this great nation.  At the end of the day it has been about service and sense of accomplishment. Over the years I have been fortunate to assume leadership roles of increasing responsibility and taking on leadership roles in several government wide initiatives.   MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? LG: In 2003, I was fortunate to be a member of the Quick Silver team with responsibility for leading government wide initiatives designed to implement the President’s Management Agenda for E-Government.  I held leadership roles in a number of these initiatives, however the one that I look at that had the broadest impact and was the most satisfying was the Financial Management Line of Business initiative.  The goal of the initiatives was to work with agencies to migrate to a common “Shared Service – Financial Management solution”.  Specifically, this required working with all the CFO Act Agencies and facilitate the retirement of their own financial management solutions and migrate to a common shared service solution. As a result of this initiative numerous agencies retired their internal legacy systems and migrated to several shared service solutions resulting in savings and increased operational efficiency and effectiveness across the Federal government.  I was able to see tangible measurable outcomes from my efforts and realized that through leadership other initiatives similar in nature had the potential to be successful with similar results. Click here, to learn more about the strategy: Implementing the President’s Management Agenda for E-Government. Additionally, I have had the honor to be recognized in the following civilian awards: Federal 100 Award Presidential Award for Leading Federal Financial Management Line of Business Initiative Department of Energy, Secretary’s Award for Leadership in Electronic Government United States Department of Justice, Attorney General’s Award   MC: What advice would you share with the next generation of leaders on entering government? LG: Be bold, take the initiative.  Seek every opportunity to work outside of your area of expertise and comfort zone to increase the tools in your personal and professional tool basket. Interestingly enough, I started in the U.S. Navy as an E1, this is the lowest rank that can be held, and rose to the level of a Command Chief Petty Officer.  In this role I was the senior enlisted at the command responsible for providing leadership and direction of all enlisted...

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Mentoring: A Win-Win Situation

Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Mentoring: A Win-Win Situation

As National Mentoring Month comes to an end, let’s reflect on the importance of mentorship and its impact on an individual’s professional development. The support and guidance from well-respected and seasoned executives is instrumental as individuals strive to achieve career ambitions. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Good mentors are more than just successful business people – they offer their time, network, and willingness to help others because they genuinely want to see someone else succeed. Top 10 Qualities of Great Mentors Shares knowledge and life experiences Enthusiastic about their work Invests in the success of others Values the opinions of others Respected by colleagues Enjoys the opportunity to help others and see them succeed Exhibits integrity and humility Approachable and available Demonstrates a “can do, get it done” attitude Thoughtfully connects mentees to the right people While mentors often serve as a good support system and sounding board, they can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to be better prepared for that next big meeting or execute a business venture. Their eagerness to share failures, lessons-learned, and personal experiences provides valuable learning opportunities that support your professional growth. These attributes not only benefit the mentees, but also create immense satisfaction for the mentor. “I’m about paying it forward. I believe in karma. I think it’s important [to mentor others] and I enjoy it. I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” says Lori Greiner, entrepreneur and star on ABC’s Shark Tank. When successful people are asked about their career accomplishments, you’ll notice that most of them credit those who helped them along the way, their mentors. Who do you admire and respect? Tell us @Mgmt_Concepts #Mentoring Month and learn more about how our coaching and mentoring services can support your professional...

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Federal Spotlight: KerriLaine Prunella

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: KerriLaine Prunella

KerriLaine Prunella serves as Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Administration. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KP: This past October I finished my 11th year in the Federal sector. I started my Federal career in the former SCEP program (Student Career Experience Program). I was in graduate school, working full-time and attending school part-time. I finished a graduate certificate in Organizational Development and an MBA, as well as some graduate level public policy classes. It was really exciting to be able to take what I was learning in class and immediately apply it on the job. My first Federal position was in Employee Relations and then I did a rotational program, where I learned all facets of human resources, such as– staffing and recruitment, and development. From there, I transitioned to an HR business partner role which was essentially an internal consultant and allowed me to work with the highest levels in the agency. I then accepted a supervisory role and I have been a supervisor for the last six years. In 2014, I went on a special assignment as a senior advisor to a deputy assistant secretary, which was really fascinating because I was able to see how a large Federal agency worked and the direct connection between the mission focus areas and policy. Today, my primary responsibility in my current role is oversight of human resources, facilities management, and executive resources. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KP: I grew up around public service. My father was Mayor of my town. My mother was Vice President of the school board so it was always a part of my life. I was in the private sector for the first few years, but I didn’t see the direct connection of what I was doing to the larger business results. I reached out to career services at my alma mater, Penn State, and I jokingly said I had a quarter life crisis (at 25) and I wanted to think about the other ways to use my talents. My advisor had suggested a transition position where I worked for a trade association, while attending school and seeking a Federal job. I found the SCEP opportunity and I applied the day the announcement was to close. At the time, I worked close to my house, so I was able to go home at lunch get my transcripts, and I had a fax machine– so, I faxed in the requested documents. I received a call a few weeks later, interviewed and then started on October 29, 2006. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KP: I’ve had a diversity of experience over the past 11 years working in large and small agencies. I have been able to rebuild and rebrand HR as a true partner in at least three of the jobs that I’ve held. I remember hearing the stigma, “Well, this happens because of HR, or “I don’t have a vacancy so, do not need to talk to HR.” I made breaking down those barriers and myth busting a priority. HR is more than recruitment and benefits. It’s a full service strategy, advising, consulting, as...

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Growing as a Coach – Tips from a Seasoned Expert

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Growing as a Coach – Tips from a Seasoned Expert

Whether you’re new to your coaching role or have logged countless hours coaching many kinds of professionals, there’s always room to hone your skills and be more helpful to your employee, peer, or other person you might be supporting. The better you are, the better you can be. These tips will help you adapt your approach and refresh your intentions for each person you coach, each time you coach them. Be transparent. If you’re going to try a coaching approach in a conversation that sounds different than how you’ve spoken in the past, go ahead and be transparent about how and why you want this conversation to be different. This can clear the air for the person you’re speaking with. No one likes feeling “worked on” or peppered with questions if they don’t understand the context of the new approach. Give yourself permission to not prescribe answers. Allow your mindset to include that your employee or partner can be creative in conversation with you, with the resourcefulness to generate answers themselves. Check what assumptions you are making about your stakeholder. Approach them as full, whole people—not deficient or otherwise “un-able” to generate new possibilities. Find out what they want from the conversation. What’s a successful outcome of the conversation for them? Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. What are you listening for? (e.g. opportunities to reply or to understand? etc.) Let your coaching mindset drive your open-ended, generative questions. As a coach, you aren’t there to give out directions and answers. Are you asking questions that lead and impose, or uncover and evoke? Frequently, the 11 Core Coaching Competencies (as defined by the International Coach Federation) get boiled down to simply listening and asking powerful questions. But the real (and more challenging) work of becoming a stronger coach for your peers or employees (or clients) lies in the tips I’ve listed above. If you leave a coaching skills class and you hear yourself asking questions like “What if you tried this?” or “Have you thought about doing that?” Just keep practicing. Eventually you’ll learn to get away from asking questions with your own answers already embedded. Remember, your coaching mindset is what drives your questions, your thoughts, what you listen for, and more. The work that you’re doing as a coach for other people begins with work you’re doing on yourself. All of the tips above are actions you’re taking with yourself, your awareness, your mindset. You have to pay attention to how you process these things. Cultivate that mindset, and the impact of your conversations will follow. — Learn more coaching tips by subscribing to this blog, using the form at the top-right of this page. And for more about Management Concepts Coaching and Mentoring offerings, check out our Coaching homepage. And last but not least, see if our Anytime Coaching training might be right for you or other leaders in your...

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Coaches Succeed When They Have the Right Mindset

Posted by on Aug 18, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Coaches Succeed When They Have the Right Mindset

Command and control isn’t the only way to relate to employees, nor is it the best mindset when you want to engender staff who are more creative or empowered. Coaching skills also help managers demonstrate their interest in their employees, a key factor for retaining and engaging employees. That’s why there’s a lot of talk these days about managers and leaders using coaching skills. It’s actually an acronym referenced in courses and coaching studies by the International Coach Federation: “MLUCS.” And while the skills of coaching tend to feel more tangible and executable to the learner (or boss who is funding the training), the coach mindset is the more important factor in whether or not your coaching conversations with others come across as genuine, growth oriented, or even well intentioned. Many factors contribute to getting the coach mindset wrong. Here’s how to shift your mindset: Skillset: After years of telling and directing, most managers and leaders are well-practiced at watching out for problems, telling staff how to avoid or fix them, and having the answers themselves. Managers and leaders have to move from the mindset of “problem solver” and allow for the employee to be a part of creating the solution. Identity: Let’s not forget how easily one’s sense of self is built by, and rewarded for, having answers. Instead, asking employees for creative answers, and starting conversations about an employee’s development without prescribing their path or even pretending to have the right answer, can feel like a relinquishing of control, threatening a leader’s identity by altering perhaps long-held views of how leaders provide value. Think of coaching as adding a new dimension to your identity as a leader—as a coach, you aren’t dispensing answers. You’re standing side-by-side with somebody and giving them room to grow. Time: Additionally, taking a coaching approach to supervision rings in many MLUCS’ ears as having to spend even more time with employees in an already packed workday. They want conversations to be quicker or less frequent, not longer or more frequent. Thing is, effective in-the-moment coaching is the short and frequent, open communication that empowers the employee. Role: Shifting to a coach mindset often needs to take place in the middle of the same conversation in which suggestions or answers are offered based on experience and expertise (mentoring/teaching), or performance-related directives are being given (supervision). Ask your employee if they’d like you to help them think through some options together. This helps you make sure you’re providing the support that is needed, and once confirmed, you can intentionally reframe your mindset in order to focus on asking open questions and listening effectively. Your coaching mindset is the place where your intentions lie. This is your reason for bothering to have coaching conversations in the first place. Whoever your stakeholders are, don’t leave them guessing about whether they can assume you have positive intent, or see them as a situation to be “dealt with.” Learn more coaching tips by subscribing to this blog, using the form at the top-right of this page. And for more about Management Concepts Coaching and Mentoring offerings, check out our Coaching homepage. And last but not least, see if our Anytime Coaching training might be right for you or the “MLUCS” in your...

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Coaching Is Essential to Your Staff Retention Strategy

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 2 comments

Coaching Is Essential to Your Staff Retention Strategy

If you’re thinking strategically about employee retention, then your budget has line items to fund coaching. Employee retention isn’t just about making sure employees don’t leave. It’s about ensuring employees feel invested in. Not just “productively utilized,” but supported, engaged, heard, trusted—effectively connected to their work by the opportunity to deploy their strengths. Without using coaching skills, managers, leaders, HR professionals, even peers, may not know how to hold conversations that help employees do that. Recent research shows that HR, Talent Management, or Learning and Development professionals are more likely to use coaching skills with the intention to support traditional business outcomes, like enhanced employee performance and productivity. But they may miss the opportunity to use coaching skills to increase employee self-confidence, enhance personal growth, and improve job satisfaction—all of which can contribute to employee turnover. Here are a few benefits of having an effective coaching culture at your organization to support employee retention: Employees of companies with strong coaching cultures are more engaged than those at organizations who do not. That’s 62% vs. 50%, respectively, according to a joint report between Human Capital Institute and the International Coach Federation. Coaching helps individuals work on behaviors that will guard against burnout. According to a 2017 study by Kronos, “[N]early half of HR leaders (46 percent) say employee burnout is responsible for up to half (20 to 50 percent, specifically) of their annual workforce turnover.” Peer, team, or group coaching helps create the experience of social support, which is shown to impact personal well-being. From hormones to neural activity, social support impacts how an individual is able to handle stress and even guard against serious conditions like heart disease. We can’t neglect our responsibility in creating the environments in which we, and our teams, work. Employees will feel that their boss pays attention and cares. The adage goes that employees leave a bad boss, not necessarily a bad job. “Managers/leaders who use coaching skills appear more likely to view coaching as an opportunity to improve the relationship with their subordinates.” (HCI.org) Take some time to think about how the relationships you have with your staff may be influencing whether they want to stay in your organization or take their talent elsewhere. Whether internal or external coaches are used—or managers, leaders, or peers are trained to use coaching skills—building a culture of coaching throughout your organization is one way to address employee retention before employees ever think about leaving. Check out our offerings for coaching services and our coaching skills training course (Anytime Coaching – enroll in our September class!), and read our other practical, tactical blog posts on coaching and mentoring. And don’t forget to subscribe, using the form in the upper-right corner of this...

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Coaching Questions that Help Individuals Move Forward

Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring | 1 comment

Coaching Questions that Help Individuals Move Forward

We regularly hear that managers and leaders should coach their teams, but being “coach-like” has a variety of interpretations. Ask any number of leaders and you’ll hear answers that range from teaching and skills training to giving advice, giving answers or suggestions, learning from a coach’s experience, and thought-partnership to generate new perspectives, challenge assumptions, and create new possibilities. As you’re driving for business results, knowing what distinguishes coaching from other tactics can help make sure you’re deploying the right approach at the right moment with the right person, to achieve the right outcomes. One way that coaching stands out from other types of performance focused conversations is its inherent perspective on who has the answers. So, if you’re tired from “coaching” your employees, maybe it’s because you’re working too hard giving answers instead of asking questions that elicit the solutions from employees’ unique experience. Take a look at the scenarios below and the corresponding list of questions. Sometimes there isn’t one clear or right way ahead. These might be exactly the moments when a coaching conversation will be most helpful. Employee scenario 1: I know I don’t have the skills to do my job, and I’m not sure my organization will get me the training I need any time soon. In the meantime, I’m falling short on my performance metrics and losing confidence along the way. What else can I do if I’m not going to be sent to training? What do you believe is at risk if you don’t get a handle on this? How much do you care about getting the skills you need? What would it look like to take your professional development into your own hands? Who are your allies? What options can you create? What are 2 immediate actions you can take that will change your situation? What are you putting off? In what area of your life can you create some quick wins? Employee Scenario 2: Things are running along smoothly but I feel like this is the calm before the storm. I want to spend this time getting ahead, but am not sure where to start. What is driving you? What is the big picture perspective on this? What are your priorities? Where can you better align with the organization’s mission? What conditions help you (your team) be at your best? What message do you want to send? What does “getting ahead” look like? What haven’t you explored? What are your assumptions? What is needed now? The questions above are certainly not exhaustive, and any one question, depending on the person, context and timing, is not a sure-fire game changer. That said, coaching conversations are a complement, not a replacement, to the variety of other conversations you will have with your employees. Take time with some of the questions above that stand out to you. Look for moments when you don’t have to hold the one “right” answer, and get comfortable asking big, open-ended questions that truly allow your employees to generate their most motivating next...

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Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Georgia A. Thomas serves at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as the organization’s Southeast and Southwest Area Manager, Communication and Stakeholder Outreach (CSO), Field Operations. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Georgia A. Thomas: I have been with the IRS since 1979. In my current position, I serve as an Area Manager in Stakeholder Liaison—Field Operations. I manage two Areas of the country, (1) the Southwest Area which includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and (2) the Southeast Area which includes the states of Florida and Georgia. My management assistant is located in Rhode Island. As Manager, I provide oversight to the outreach efforts within both geographical areas. Our stakeholders are primarily the Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Community. We also provide Disaster Assistance in these areas. In addition to providing education and resources to our stakeholders, issue management is an important tool we utilize to support our stakeholders and effectively influence compliance with tax laws. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? GT: I stay in public service at this point in my life because no two days are the same. I am motivated by knowing that the liaison work we do involves helping someone each and every day. While education and outreach is one of those fields where you can measure success by the number reached, growth in knowledge can sometimes be very speculative. However, being able to note the improvement in overall compliance levels over time because a group was educated on a given topic makes all the difference in tax administration. I am proud to be a part of a small group within the Internal Revenue Service that educates our stakeholders and lessens the burden of the American taxpayer through our outreach activities that focus on education, disaster assistance, and stakeholder issue resolution. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? GT: For me, my biggest achievements have been the ability to mentor and assist others in their careers. I have been rewarded by the gift of seeing others grow and accomplish the career goals they have set for themselves, and in several cases exceed what they thought they could do. And of course, the added bonus is when the person comes back and lets me know how much they’ve appreciated the assistance. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? GT: Join an organization, whether you join something like Federally Employed Women (FEW) or another organization that supports your career and your passion. Never underestimate the power of personal growth and moral support gained by being proactively involved with others. Joining FEW has given me an appreciation for the hard work and service that Federal employees provide every day. I am especially appreciative of the positive impact that women make in the Federal workplace and in their service to the American taxpayer. My involvement with FEW has been invaluable to my career and personal growth. Without my involvement with FEW, I would not have been exposed to so many skillsets and career paths in my interactions with FEW sisters and brothers across the United States. Being active in FEW gave me the confidence to...

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To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 2 comments

To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

Executive orders, cabinet confirmation hearings, and Supreme Court nominations are leaving many in the federal sector uncertain about how they’ll be impacted. This uncertainty can increase anxiety for Federal employees. This uncertainty, combined with how people feel about the uncertainty, affects people’s ability to tolerate ambiguity, increasing the intensity of their experience of anxiety. The experience of uncertainty can also in turn amplify a particular feeling you already have about what’s going on in your workplace. One of several factors that influence the human experience of uncertainty is the psychological safety they experience in their work environment. As someone’s boss, you likely influence the psychological safety a person experiences, even if you cannot change the objective uncertainty of the present moment. How you demonstrate transparency, trust, and yes, even care, for your employees can influence how they experience a sense of security at work. Your role is even more critical in steadying your team while they work through fears, anxiety, confusion, apprehension, and other negative emotions that can be brought on by significant transitions in the workplace. Emotional contagion, the phenomenon of a team’s attitudes and feelings—and thus, their decision making—being influenced by one another’s emotions, has gained increasing attention in recent times. If you’re a manager who isn’t paying attention to how your own emotions are influencing your people, you might be contributing unnecessary negativity to an already anxious group. Yet, you may not be experiencing a sense of stability from your own boss. So, you’re having to buffer against what’s coming at you from your boss, and prevent that from being passed down to your people… Enter coaching. Working with a coach (internal or external to your organization) can help you navigate your own feelings of uncertainty, while working on your capacity for self-control or empathy, holding difficult conversations, executive presence, and more. And, if you get serious about using coaching skills to help your own people, having your own coach can be critical in helping you understand what good coaching looks and feels like, and how it’s different from traditional supervisory conversations. According to our recent research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—82 % of the Federal workers we surveyed feel that their managers are unresponsive or slow to address reported employee issues. A study by DDI (Development Divisions International, Inc.) found that in the U.S., 56% of frontline managers fail because of lack of interpersonal skills. Moreover, negative outcomes like loss of leader engagement, team members leaving the organization, and profit and productivity loss, were most commonly attributed to lack of interpersonal skills. Are you that manager? Are you uncomfortable handling important, if difficult, conversations? Are you perhaps even uncomfortable holding check-in conversations that aren’t part of the official “performance review” process? I’ve encountered several clients who hesitate to initiate informal conversations with their employees because it isn’t part of their organization’s “culture.” They get self-conscious. They think it will be too awkward, or worse yet, that employees will question their motivations. Without putting in the time and effort to build rapport, they’re surprised when they don’t know how to motivate or support individual employees. And now, both the relationship and how to deal with uncertainty, have to be addressed. If you’re a manager who hasn’t picked up coaching skills—you can develop those...

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Presidential Transition Worries? Good Coaching Gets You Through It

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Presidential Transition Worries? Good Coaching Gets You Through It

I don’t know what to expect. I can’t share this with my coworkers, and I certainly can’t talk with my boss about this. I didn’t realize how much this is actually affecting me. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I hear these phrases a lot from my coaching clients these days. While they’re to be expected in coaching conversations, they’re particularly prevalent during this current change of Presidential administrations. According to the Senior Executives Association’s handbook on Presidential transition for Federal executives , “Over 4,000 political appointee positions will turn over with a new Administration and virtually all civilian employees will be touched by the changes.” For managers and HR professionals staying attuned to their colleagues, providing the right support during times of transition can significantly impact how individuals, teams, and, ultimately, organizations fare during a period of change and uncertainty. A transition can be like a roller coaster, and even if you’re in front leading the way, or have even finished the ride and are ready to move on, remember that the rest of your team might still be hanging on through loops, corkscrews, twists, and turns behind you. Same as having great internal communication, coaching helps get people through the roller coaster ride. In conjunction with solid communications with your staff, consider a three-pronged coaching approach within your organization: Engage in one-on-one coaching: Many factors influence how well individuals approach, and execute, a transition, including “self-criticism, self-doubt, identity shifts, boundary realignments, self-expectation to get it ‘right’ from the start” and more (Weinstock 2011). Whether an individual is experiencing a specific transition in their own role, or navigating an organizational transition, an external coach may be the support they need to reassess the specific behaviors, actions, and perspectives they’ll need to shift to be productive in the new organizational landscape. Create a peer coaching program: An economical and potent way to build empowered employees is to cascade voluntary peer coaching groups throughout your organization. In peer coaching, peers (who do not necessarily work on the same team) come together to build a confidential thought-partnership specific to the concerns of each participant, while learning key coaching skills that will serve them in any relationship and serve them when leading others. While the setup of a peer coaching cohort needs to be intentional, when managed well and trained in the appropriate process, employees can cover territory together that they might be unwilling to broach within their team or with their supervisor. Get coaching for groups or teams: Consider this approach to get your team collectively thinking about what the system of the team needs in order to be successful throughout, and beyond, the transition. You may take advantage of an assessment instrument to establish common data points from which to gain understanding and launch your work together. Making sure you think through which behaviors and business outcomes you’d like the team coaching to support will be key in measuring its effectiveness. Coaching focuses on taking action and changing behaviors—behaviors that are often expressions of our personal values. When employees have difficulty navigating a transition, they may not only be confronting the behavioral requirements of change, but confronting potentially conflicting values and beliefs surrounding the change as well. Not everyone recognizes the energetic toll it can take to self-regulate...

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How Coaches Overcome Generational Differences

Posted by on Nov 2, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

How Coaches Overcome Generational Differences

It’s popular these days to generation-bash. Who among us hasn’t heard colleagues decry the disloyalty and entitlement of millennials, or the outdated thinking and rigidity of boomers? Who hasn’t come close to, or fallen into, perpetuating generational stereotypes, even by way of commiserating silently with others?  When working with millennials in particular, coaches have to be able to break through the catch-all stereotypes of generational difference. Leaders are right to be concerned about the impact of beliefs, expectations, and behaviors held by all generations in their workforce. And we are right to consider how our current context can create perceived differences in personality and values. Increasingly, however, research is finding that differences we often attribute to someone’s generation have more to do with a person’s age, maturity, and experience than the grouping of years in which a person was born. With a growing number of millennials and later generations taking leadership roles in organizations, it’s important to understand how to more effectively coach these emerging leaders to build the capabilities organizations need to thrive in the future. While research is still limited in the area of generations and age in relation to coaching effectiveness, we do know a lot about what makes coaching effective. In a study published in 2015, the top three factors with the most impact on coaching effectiveness include factors associated with the coach, with the client, and with their relationship: With the coach: Do they create trust with their client? Do they have solid management communication skills? What’s their commitment to the individual client and the organization? Can they motivate? With client behavior: How motivated is the client to learn and change? How committed is the client to their development and do they feel responsible for it? With the coach-client relationship: Is there trust? Is it confidential? Respectful? Authentic? A more recent study suggests that in a strong coach-coachee relationship, effective tasks and goals may be more influential than bonding. Matching based on personalities might not be as necessary or effective for coaching outcomes as you might like to think. Instead, coaches need to look less at stereotypical generational differences and more at personal-level differences in maturity, experience, and age.   How does age come into play? It turns out, in results from another recent study, executives between the ages of 30-39 exhibit lower levels of self-reflection and a lower degree of observed behavior change (as judged by organizational stakeholders) than those executives between 40-49 and 50-59. Clients in the 30-39 age group were not defensive and were willing and eager to participate in the coaching experience. However, what they might need is extra motivation to explore more deeply. This might be prompted by difficult feedback in a 360 review or a direct conversation with the coach or a supervisor. If you’re a coach working with coachees ages 30-39, remember they’re likely focused on performance, and adherence to the rules it takes to establish themselves professionally. Deep self-reflection might not come without a struggle, or feedback indicating that a closer look in the mirror is warranted. This can easily be misinterpreted by younger individuals unwilling to self-reflect or unsuitable for effective coaching. But, before we jump to that conclusion, let’s remember a few things: Coaching is personal, not general. Whatever you believe to be true...

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The HUD Federal Coaching Conference – Our Take

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

The HUD Federal Coaching Conference – Our Take

For anyone who was still skeptical about the value of coaching in the workplace, the HUD Federal Coaching Conference unabashedly put stakes in the ground, with thought leadership from academia, and both the private and public sectors making case after case for why coaching works and why it isn’t going away. Scholars and practitioners from Georgetown, George Mason, the Department of Defense, Treasury Executive Institute, Management Concepts, and others fielded questions as fundamental as “what is coaching?” and “how is it different from mentoring or therapy?” to more complex concerns about how to judiciously use coaching behaviors like listening, asking, and involving staff in their own solution-making. A coaching mindset can be quite a shift after years of managerial training and experience have left deeply ingrained habits and incentives for telling, directing, and having all the answers. The theme “Transforming Government Through the Power of Coaching,” struck a chord for attendees who need an approach that provides the capacity to work as deeply as their struggles are difficult. For organizations navigating a change process, trying to shift their culture, or simply giving managers new tools for performance improvement, coaching has the beautiful ability to be effective at the individual, team, and organizational levels. The use of coaching skills empowers the person using those skills as well as the person receiving coaching. It reawakens individuals’ ability to choose how they are responding and behaving in any given moment—if they chose to accept such awareness. While HUD’s coaching conference signals that coaching is still an emerging tool for many Federal employees, efforts like HUD’s to educate employees from across the government can raise awareness about what it means to be a coach and what it takes to build coaching skills. And the content and questions from the HUD conference mirror a shift in the profession of coaching at large. The 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study Executive Summary shows that of respondents, 73% of leaders using coaching skills have received accredited or approached coach-specific training of some kind. Yet, a significant gap in training and credentialing still exists between leaders using coaching skills and professional coach practitioners (those whose primary job is as a coach). 68% of coach practitioners have received 125 or more hours of accredited coach training, compared with 42% of leaders using coaching skills. And while 79% of coach practitioners say they “currently hold a credential or certification from a professional coaching organization,” “more than half of managers/leaders using coaching skills said they do not hold any certification or credential from a professional coaching organization.” So what does all of this mean and why is HUD’s conference important? First, we are seeing the organic expansion of beliefs about who can use coaching skills and in what context. The International Coach Federation acknowledges a meaningful “coaching continuum.” No longer can we simply sort the industry by whether or not someone is a professional coach. On the continuum exists not only internal and external coach practitioners, but others who are using coaching skills in roles like Human Resources, Talent Development, Manager, Director, and Leader. It also means the bar continues to be set higher for anyone who says they do coaching or are one. HUD’s conference not only built interest and credibility, it provided key distinctions of which everyone should be...

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Value of Peer Coaching

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Value of Peer Coaching

Perhaps you have heard of the practice of coaching, where individuals receive coaching from external professional coaches, internal coaches, or managers; and the benefits of coaching for improving self-awareness, leadership, and organizational performance. What is less widely understood or implemented, but may have a broader organizational impact, is the practice of peer coaching. In my last blog I wrote about the democratization of coaching—making coaching skills training and one-on-one coaching available to employees regardless of supervisory status. Peer coaching is a great example of doing just that. So what is Peer Coaching? Peer coaching occurs when a group of peers, who may or may not be from the same team, first learn or review coaching skills together so they are all operating with the same understanding of the coaching toolkit, then agree to partner with one another to practice those skills while addressing real concerns they each have. In peer coaching, participants are intended to support one another in ongoing one-on-one coaching conversations after they’ve been trained in using coaching skills. They might call their counterpart a “learning” or “accountability” partner. Regardless, they typically commit to working with someone in a series of coaching conversations. The intention is to combine the learning and practice of coaching skills with a “safe” peer partner with whom to build rapport and gain new perspective. Informally, meetings can occur at whatever frequency feels appropriate to the pair, whether that means impromptu calls, or meetings every other Friday like clockwork. They bring real topics they want to be coached on, and the partner-coach helps their peer design their own intrinsically motivating solutions. Like every other coaching relationship, trust and confidentiality are key. Partners are meant to listen, inquire, reflect back what they are noticing, make requests, and give feedback in service of their partner’s growth. This only works if each person in the partnership is truly interested in creating change of some sort; gaining new perspective, exploring ways of thinking that are otherwise keeping them stuck, seeking a new approach to a difficult relationship, etc. Without a desire to get introspective and try something new, coaching with a peer, or anyone else, is not likely to be a good fit. Why invest in peer coaching? When done well and supported by senior leadership, peer coaching can help to create new norms for engaging with others in the workplace. Peers, whether in teams or not, can create a habit of making one another part of their own solution, rather than ruminating in venting conversations, or commiserating together without owning any part of the needed change. Often, peer coaching is seen as a way to provide coaching skills to employees so that they can better support one another in addition to using those skills with their direct reports. In this way, coaching spreads through an organization rather than sticking within a small group. This might stem from a desire by leadership to give the group more tools. It might occur as a result of tightening budgets that don’t allow for the expense of external coaches. Maybe an organization doesn’t have internal coaches but wants to find a way to support employees through the use of coaching. Whatever the reason, the value of peer coaching often is best achieved when coaching behaviors are endorsed and modeled by...

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Democratization of Coaching

Posted by on May 27, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Democratization of Coaching

You name it, it’s being called for. Bringing to the masses what has previously been available to only a few. From leader development, to information and data, to change management, a trend toward demystifying these domains and making them accessible and applicable to employees of all levels is in the organizational air. I’d like to join in the ranks of many others who are calling for a “democratization of coaching,” meaning: In support of employees – regardless of seniority or supervisory responsibility – having access to skills training that will better prepare them for supporting others through learning and growth-oriented conversations. This also means supporting a culture that actively supports learning and growth through everyday conversation and strengthened relationships, as well as the possibility of engaging in a more formal relationship with a professional coach for their own personal and professional development. This doesn’t mean everyone gets to call themselves a coach, nor does it dilute the quality of coaching skill among trained and certified coaches. It doesn’t mean people will find themselves in coaching conversations against their will when they just wanted to run an idea by someone or provide an update. It does mean, though, that employees could learn to use coaching skills to support one another at appropriate moments. It calls for a shift in our perceived role in the growth of those around us. On the notion of creating a coaching culture, Magdalena Mook, Executive Director of the International Coach Federation, writes that in addition to senior leaders demonstrating their support for coaching by engaging in it themselves, “ultimately, coaching should be made available across each level of an organization, to professionals of all ages and levels of experience. This is crucial for a lasting, enterprise-wide impact.” Named leaders and unnamed influencers (that’s the rest of us) impact one another with every interaction. Studies on mirror neurons, theories of emotional contagion, generosity, reciprocity, mindfulness, neurological responses to non-saber-tooth-tiger threats—these are just some of the more well-known, yet growing bodies of research that inform our consideration of what impact, and dare I say responsibility, we have to one another as socially attuned beings in the workplace. And there we have the heart of it. Are we willing to acknowledge our impact on one another and become intentional in it? Are we willing to provide skills to employees that allow them to demonstrate concern and support for others and set the expectation that it’s okay to actively do so? Whether you’re trying to create a coaching culture or not, the value of coaching is stifled if the only people in the organization who have access to it are unseen by the majority of employees, and if coaching skills are only put to practice behind closed doors in one-on-one meetings. With just a quick glance at the Gallup Q12, meant to gauge employee engagement, a third or more of the 12 indicators could start to be addressed through the active use of coaching skills by any employee with another. Of course there are caveats, including the need for trust (which can also built by taking a coach approach) as well as permission to inquire of others. Champions of using a “coach approach” are important models for others, especially at the senior level. Let’s bring coaching skills to the...

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AMA: Mentoring

Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

AMA: Mentoring

This Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), we wanted to provide Federal employees with some helpful information on mentoring. Whether you’re a millennial, baby boomer, someone who wants a mentor, or thinking about mentoring yourself, this information can be useful throughout your career. Below please find our take on a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) with our Coaching and Mentoring Practice Lead, Natalya Pestalozzi. What’s the best way to find a mentor? Potential mentors are everywhere. Finding the right one for you and entering into a mentoring relationship depends on what you’re seeking to get out of it, so get clear on that early on so you know what you’re looking for. If you would like to be “matched” with a mentor, a formal mentoring program might be the right place to start. Reach out to your HR team; they may know which departments in your organization are running a formal program, possibly in the context of leadership development. Also, a number of professional organizations provide value to their membership by matching mentees with professionals from other organizations. Check out the national association for your profession, or other professional or community groups with which you affiliated. Your alma mater is also a place to look since alumni often love to help one another. If you’re looking for something informal or a formal program isn’t available, ask around. Speak with a few colleagues whose opinion you respect and who know you fairly well. Tell them what kind of assistance you’re looking for and ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction to someone who might be a fit. Remember, mentoring relationships are developed over time. You probably won’t ask a stranger to be your mentor the first time you meet them, so ask for an informational interview without expectations of anything more. It may, though, lead to ongoing conversations and rapport building, and even referrals to other resources for professional support. If you feel a strong affinity for one another, it might just turn into a mentoring relationship, which you can craft as you go. What boundaries should you have with a mentor? Boundaries are personal. Certainly, adhere to the professional standards and ethics of your organization. That said, check in with one another. What topics are you comfortable discussing? Do you want to meet socially, strictly during office hours, or somewhere in between? How frequently? On the phone? In person? Is texting okay? Hash this out together. Boundaries can also mean getting clear on what kinds of help your mentor can provide. They might have a boundary about making introductions to their contacts before they’ve gotten to know you well. They might not want to share about their personal life. If your relationship becomes stronger, what you’re each comfortable sharing or asking for can change, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you both honor each other’s boundaries, and you won’t necessarily know where those boundaries are unless you ask. Can a mentoring relationship go wrong? Mentoring relationships can go wrong for a variety of reasons, on account of either the mentor, mentee, or both. I’ve written about some of those reasons, but oftentimes it’s the conversations you don’t have which can lead to a disconnect. Make a point to articulate your needs, hopes, and expectations (and readdress...

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Is It Coaching or Mentoring?

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Is It Coaching or Mentoring?

Have you ever found yourself listening to someone tell you all about how to avoid the pitfalls they experienced in their career, and to heed their advice, when what you really needed was for them to help you draw out your own ideas for how to navigate the situation? Or have you been in a new role where what you really needed was someone to tell you directly how best to navigate your organization and who else to speak with, rather than asking you what you wanted to do? These examples are indicative of the overlap, and confusion, about coaching and mentoring. Two valuable relationships in support of personal and professional growth, whose differences in intention and approach, when not clearly articulated, can cause confusion and even disappointment. So what causes the confusion? Well for one, if a mentor is really good, they are likely using many coaching skills. Both coach and mentor will really listen to you and clarify that they understand your needs. They’ll ask provocative questions that draw on your own competence and capacity. So sometimes a good mentoring conversation can feel very coach-like. But note that a good coaching conversation will rarely feel like a mentoring conversation. As well, organizations are increasingly building internal coaching resources while continuing to hire external coaches. A mentor can be outside of the organization, though they are likely someone who is still an employee. So, simply knowing whether someone is internal or external to the organization isn’t always a clear indicator of which role they’re playing. Sometimes, when coaching or mentoring programs are rolled out, clear guidelines, training, expectations, or question and answer sessions have not been provided to participants, only adding to the ambiguity. Another factor contributing to the confusion is the multiple meanings intended by the use of the words. Haven’t we heard the word “coaching” when it actually means training, teaching, consultation, or some other opportunity to receive advice and learn from the experience of another? (In reality, none of these are in keeping with strict professional coaching standards). And a mentor might mean something as general as someone who helps you think about next steps in your career (which can also be handled by a coach), or as specific as someone who will help you in the application of a particular skill or competency in your work environment, based on their own experience. Finally, as supervisors wear multiple hats, it’s easy to blur the lines between coach, supervisor, and mentor in a single conversation. What does this look like? “Well, Natalya, if you want to go after that promotion, what support do you need to prepare for that role? How can you show up at your best during the interview? If you want to move forward on this team, you will need to complete training in financial management, which you haven’t done yet. But you know, I was at a crossroads at your age too, and I thought expanding my skillset would open more doors, and it really did.” In this scenario, the supervisor acted in all three roles. Initially they took a coach approach that assumes the employee knows the direction they want to move in and just needs some thought partnership to do it in their own way. The next moment, with their...

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Providing Difficult Peer Feedback

Posted by on Feb 19, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Providing Difficult Peer Feedback

As organizations move towards cultures of coaching and real-time feedback, the ability of peer groups to provide meaningful performance feedback will need to grow. In some regards, giving difficult feedback to a peer can be even more challenging than if it were part of your supervisory duties. Since giving peers feedback often isn’t required or part of the group’s norms, providing performance coaching can feel out-of-place to initiate. And if this is the first time, your peer might not understand your motivations. Whether this is a new behavior you’d like to start for your group, something you’re intentionally trying to develop for yourself, or stems from a desire to help a particular colleague, here are a few things to consider that can help you take a coaching approach to providing performance-focused feedback: Build rapport and establish trust: Clearly, it’s easier to deliver, and receive, difficult feedback if your receiving partner isn’t blindsided by an unsolicited remark from someone who has never expressed concern in the past. Ideally, well before you are compelled to provide difficult feedback to a peer, you’ve taken the time to engender trust (thanks, Jane E. Dutton) by speaking in ways that convey it, like using inclusive language, sharing valuable information, and letting others know what your thoughts are on issues that are important to you both. Check your motivations: A coach approach means checking in with your ego and asking yourself why you want to deliver this feedback. You want your colleague to know you support them and are interested in helping them have the best impact for themselves, the team, and organization. If this isn’t your main motivation, your feedback could be construed as your need to be right, competitive, mean-spirited, or any number of unsupportive, self-serving intentions. Question your assumptions: It’s easy to think we know why someone is behaving a certain way, or what they should do to fix it. These assumptions, though, can stop us from learning what’s really happening and actually being of service. Get curious by checking in: After you’ve checked in on your assumptions, spend some time getting curious about what’s really happening. You might want to learn more before providing specific feedback. Remember your open hand: The feedback you give to your peer will be up to them to receive, make meaning of, and take action on. Giving feedback with an open hand means remembering that this feedback is theirs to do with what they are able, and might not be our way or on our terms. When you’re ready to provide difficult feedback with an open mind and an open hand, consider this process: Behavior – Focus on the specific behavior or action that you would like to provide feedback on. Simply tell them what you’re noticing. Inquiry – Ask open ended questions to try to better understand your peer’s intentions. What caused them to choose to behave or take the action they did? Result – Explain the result of that individual’s actions or behaviors on you, the team, and/or the organization. Help the individual understand how their actions had an impact and ask how that matters to them. Action – Articulate a possible action you suggest your peer take as a result of the feedback conversation. Check in to see if that strikes a chord...

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Posted by on Jan 28, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

We all know the value of productive mentoring relationships for career growth and development. But, like any relationship, the relationship between mentor and protégé isn’t always sunshine and roses. When things aren’t going quite as well as you’d like, it’s easy to think “I have to fire my mentor!” or “I have to cut the cord with my protégé!”, but if you’re thinking about calling off your mentoring relationship and aren’t quite sure how to do it, a bit of reflection is in order. The object isn’t to simply get out of the conversation alive and be done. Before you voice your desire to terminate the relationship and alter the direction of your relationship permanently, reflect on the following: You say you’re ready to end it?—Consider how you started it. What type of agreements did you have in place? What commitments to the relationship did you make? Telling your partner about your concerns only when you are terminating the relationship doesn’t allow them the time to shift to meet your needs. This may come across as your own unwillingness to devote the effort and commitment needed to make the relationship a success. What’s not working? Personality or philosophical mismatch? Are you bored or did you simply finish your goals ahead of schedule? Are your conversations off-topic? Understand where your partner’s ownership of the relationship stops and yours begins. Consider with your partner how to recalibrate the relationship. Relationships can require some creativity. Make sure you can leave the relationship knowing you did everything you could to make it right. What would you like the relationship to look like instead? Are you looking for a three month break with the ability to check in after you’ve had some more time to make progress? Do you want a clean break but the ability to check in with an occasional email? An informal coffee? No contact at all? If you’re set on calling off the relationship, how can you hold this conversation with appreciation, respect, honesty, and yes, grace? Much of your professional journey may be still ahead of you. Even if you’re winding down your career, tarnishing your reputation instead of taking the higher road doesn’t make sense in our highly connected “small world.” Now that you know the end goal of your conversation, here are a few thoughts on how to make the most of a difficult situation: Appreciation. Approach the conversation with an appreciation for the time you’ve shared and indicate specific ways you’ve grown as the protégé, or witnessed the protégé grow. Respect. Even if your partner wasn’t able to provide exactly what you needed to sustain the relationship, a respectful approach keeps your integrity at the end of the relationship intact. This is still a time for you to model leadership growth by using a professional approach. Honesty. Do let your partner know what is prompting your desire to “complete” or end the relationship. Offer your honest feedback understanding they will take from it what they are able. Grace. There is no doubt that this conversation could be a difficult or awkward one. Do what you need to do to prepare and practice your comments ahead of time. Remember that honesty is not a free pass for insensitivity or personal...

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Making Waves: Observing Yourself and Employee Performance in 2016

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Making Waves: Observing Yourself and Employee  Performance in 2016

January is a popular time to reflect on personal and professional change. Creating New Year’s resolutions is a powerful way to implement meaningful change. As a professional executive, I often hear my clients share their New Year’s wishes – to better managers and leaders. Others talk about wanting to improve morale within a team. What are your resolutions to enhance productivity, increase trust or improve communication within your workplace and with employees? Anytime Coaching: Unleashing Employee Performance, written with my co-author and fellow Executive Coach, Teresa Wedding Kloster, is a practical guide that can help anyone in the workplace achieve his or her resolutions by strengthening core supervision and management skills. The core skills outlined in the books are well known and mostly likely ones you use in the office. The four key Anytime Coaching practices and foundational skills (also known by the acronym OILR), are: Observing (yourself and employees) Inquiring (the ability to ask powerful questions) Listening Responding (responding in an appropriate way) In this blog, we will dive deeper into the first Anytime Coaching practice of observing and explain how you can use it to help set important goals for the coming year. Practice of Observing: Reflecting on 2015: Let’s start back with 2015 and reflect more closely on this past year. As an Anytime Coach, it is very important to start first with observing yourself and then your employees. The goal is not only to observe yourself but to pay more attention to those around you – your colleagues and team members – observing with a new perspective or “new set of eyes.” Take a few minutes to step back and build upon your strengths in what you have done as a leader or manager, as well what your employees are doing. Here are some questions to help you reflect back on 2015: What did you do well in 2015 with regards to being a manager? What else are you proud of (in yourself) regarding leadership? What did you observe about yourself in times of change or stress? How did you handle these situations well? What would you do differently next time when faced with a challenge? Observing Employee Performance with Fresh Eyes in 2016 Now that you have looked at positives in both yourself and your team, it is time to look ahead to 2016 and reflect upon changes needed in your employees’ performance. It is very easy to look at what is not working well with your employees. However, using Anytime Coaching’s practice of observing, we encourage you to start in a completely different place – look at the positive possibilities with your employees and what is actually working well. The lens of looking at employees through positive possibilities may be different at first, but this new lens can fundamentally change how you view your employees, team members, and even your own supervisor. Rather than focusing on employees’ weaknesses, look at the larger picture. Think about what each employee does well and how his or her work is effective. This sounds simple but observing positive qualities takes focus. We believe it is a huge shift in perspective to first notice what are the employees’ positive qualities and then determine what can be improved. Here is how you can get started. Think of an employee...

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The Art of Coach Matching

Posted by on Dec 14, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

The Art of Coach Matching

A strong coaching relationship is based on just that…relationship. While some of the factors that we’d think to be important are meaningful matching criteria, some considerations carry more, or less, weight than we’d expect. What the client wants doesn’t always track with what the client needs. Yet one or more client preferences may increase the likelihood that they feel connected to their coach or even view their coach as legitimate. And while we can’t all be expert match-makers, below are some considerations to keep in mind, whether you are a prospective client looking for a coach, or in the position to match coaches and clients together. Some common client preferences from which coaching matches are made range from age and ethnicity to coaching style, domain expertise, and other kinds of clients the coach has worked with. While these may seem like intuitive criteria, choosing to match based on any of them can be a highly nuanced process that may or may not achieve the desired result: A successful coaching relationship. Here are some considerations for how much weight to give to any of them. Matching on similarities: Benefits: Sharing similar backgrounds can help the client feel comfortable and safe to open up in the conversation. It can give them a natural launch pad and ability to dive in right away. Most clients want to know that the coach will “get” them—that they share a common understanding and don’t have to explain everything. For many people, it increases the likelihood that they will establish trust and get to the heart of their work more quickly. Additionally, similar backgrounds are helpful when what a client wants isn’t strictly coaching, but rather hopes for the coach to put on their consulting hat and give some advice based on personal experience. (*While there is nothing wrong with this, we should be clear that advice-giving is outside of strict coaching practices. Administrators of coaching programs, coaching match-makers, and coaches should all be clear with prospective clients about the reasons for entering a coaching relationship to make sure expectations and needs are understood and able to be met..) Challenges: Sharing similar background is often more about what the client believes they need in order to feel comfortable in the relationship than what the coach needs to do the work of coaching. And while empathizing plays a key role in coaching, sharing too much in common might actually enable the coach to collude with or “buy into” the client’s assumptions, instead of challenging them or offering new perspectives. Moreover, while sharing some things in common can help match clients with external coaches, internal coaches who share a common background are often seen as too close to be objective or confidential. Matching on differences: Benefits: Some of the best value a coach can bring is that of an outside perspective and a challenge for the client to be or do differently. Often when it is time for coaching, what’s comfortable to us (i.e. thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, habits, etc.) no longer serves us. Maybe our coach is young enough to be our kid. Maybe they are from the non-profit world and we’re in government. Maybe they are from a different country. A coach who doesn’t know what it’s like to be us can be exactly the coach who...

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Coaching’s Impact on Training

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Coaching’s Impact on Training

How many times have you left a training program excited to implement newfound skills and ideas, only to get caught up in old habits and fast paced office life, leaving your inspiration to apply those new skills back at the classroom table? We know that training provides a safe space to share an experience of gaining knowledge and skills with others. The networking and knowledge sharing that occurs during training can be invaluable, and yet we know that it can be difficult to translate what you learned in training to your job environment. That’s where professional coaching can serve as a value added experience, locking in learning and helping create a personalized plan for mindfully and intentionally implementing the knowledge and skills from group training. Like an athletic or dance coach that helps you make adjustments in order to start faster or stick a landing, a professional coach helps you tweak behaviors or beliefs in your professional life so that you increase your competence, capacity, and effectiveness. Often when we bring home new knowledge or skills from training, we try to place them on top of behaviors or processes that are already in place, often unsuccessfully, rather than truly integrating them into our way of being. A coach can help you take what you learned in class and make it personally applicable—what does this new information mean in the context of your professional environment for you? What makes sense for you to implement or not? How can you blend these new skills with what is already working? Coaches reflect back to us what they witness in our habits of thought and of behavior. What about our perspective or daily habits makes it easy or difficult to implement new skills or insight? If we say yes to applying classroom training on the job, what does that mean we have to say no to? And if we don’t bother applying it, what is at risk? Research indicates that coaching does lead to increases in both personal and organizational effectiveness. Coaching has been linked to better leader performance, higher levels of productivity and employee morale, and better customer service. When combined with the training needed for leaders and managers to develop certain foundational levels of knowledge and skills, coaching provides the important extra element of focused, personalized learning and growth to help leaders develop lifelong habits and to practice behaviors that maximize their potential and have a positive impact on the organization’s bottom...

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Establishing a Successful IT PM Mentoring Program

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Project Management | 0 comments

Establishing a Successful IT PM Mentoring Program

Welcome back and if you did not read my previous blog post for August, you might want to quickly do that as it is background material for this follow-on post on how to establish a successful IT Project Management Mentoring Program at your organization. As we previously discussed, having a mentor when you are beginning or seeking to enhance your skills and abilities as an IT project manager, a mentor can provide help you achieve this objective. However, most companies or organizations do not have such a program to assist their PM staff. To start, what is a mentor and how does this role differ from a coach or manager? With specific reference to IT project management, a mentor is an experienced, skilled IT project manager with the willingness to provide suitable knowledge by example to others seeking to improve their project management acumen. What this means is that an IT project manager with a proven track record provides those without with the value of their ‘time in grade.’ Thus, a mentor imparts wisdom by example, not by directive or email. To establish a successful IT PM mentoring program, an organization needs to have and be willing to: A willing supply of experienced IT project managers, of course Support by senior management for the program Provide resources to ensure the program success A program champion The first three are what they are, either you have them or you do not. So without the first three, the chances for implementing a successful program are almost nil – move on, and attempt improvement in other areas. If on the other hand, you do have the first three requirements, the program champion is the most critical key to success for the mentoring environment. Your program champion must be both an experienced IT PM in their own right, but also have the aptitude to transfer such knowledge and wisdom to others that could eventually replace them. This is absolutely mandatory. A mentor is someone that is not threatened by others wanting to learn what they know, but seeks to provide this knowledge to such motivated individuals. Your program champion will need to accomplish the following program milestones once approval and resources for the mentoring program have been obtained: A program plan detailing the approach and milestones for success of the program An internal ‘marketing’ effort to unveil the program to potential mentors and mentees A ‘kick-off’ meeting with potential mentors An assignment gathering between ‘vetted’ mentors and potential mentees The purpose of your mentoring program is NOT to standardize how the mentor-mentee relationship will unfold, but to simply introduce the parties and provide the time to support the mentoring process. Let me just warn, however, that not every successful IT PM is right or able to be an effective mentor. The following characteristics are needed in such a responsible party: Most important and above all – patience! Knowledgeable in IT PM practices demonstrated by a proven track record of successful project completions Willingness to guide and lead by ‘doing it right,’ not by just talking Ability to work one-on-one with someone less experienced and capable without frustration Understanding of when to allow ‘trial and error,’ and when to demonstrate effective practices To put it into a formula: a good mentor is 50% experienced...

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Can You Be an Anytime Coach?

Posted by on Aug 19, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Can You Be an Anytime Coach?

We would all like to create a more encouraging and empowered workplace, and see better performance from our employees, colleagues and leaders. One way to do this is to implement the key principles of our recently published book, Anytime Coaching—Unleashing Employee Performance, co-authored with Wendy Sherwin Swire. Since the original publication, we’ve learned from conversations with leaders who have read and applied its principles that they witnessed many benefits, including: Becoming more aware of the “self” that leaders bring to their workplace Slowing down to observe themselves and those around them more consciously Hearing their employees’ ideas and concerns more empathetically Developing richer work relationships Asking more insightful questions Having more productive difficult conversations Being more deliberate when responding to others Continuing along the path to great expertise in being an Anytime Coach The Anytime Coaching model enables you to make positive changes that will encourage and empower employees to make performance changes that last. How? In writing the 2nd Edition of Anytime Coaching with Wendy Sherwin Swire, we drew wisdom from the intersecting disciplines of neuroscience and mindfulness that shows how individuals can build resilience through specific practices that train the brain. Yes, “train the brain.” Neuroscience tells us that the truly amazing “bossy” brain (which controls not only your body and how you move, but also what you think, feel, remember, and learn) can be “rewired” for greater effectiveness, creativity, empathy, and happiness. We reveal how recent discoveries in neuroscience support the recommended practices of Anytime Coaching. For example, the practice of “observing the positives” helps to “rewire” your brain to perceive more positive experiences. Psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness, explains that, “Over time, taking in the good could actually turn your brain’s negativity bias into a responsivity bias—that will help you stay centered, strong, happy and healthy.”   A leader’s regular practice of “observing the positives” encourages and empowers employees to do their best. With the burgeoning popular interest in mindfulness, we explore ways of being more fully attentive and aware as you go through your day and engage in coaching conversations. More and more studies are showing that a regular practice of mindfulness increases attention, enhances cognitive performance, improves memory, and reduces the feelings of stress in our demanding work environments. We interviewed mindfulness experts and included new exercises in the book that make mindfulness accessible to our readers. One simple method to be more mindful described is to practice “just noticing.” As you move through your day, from house to car, from car to office, from meeting to meeting, practice being present with just the sights, sounds, and sensations right in front of you. Notice how the lighting and temperature might change from the garage to the elevator. Notice the textures of the walls, carpeting and ceilings, the sounds of your footsteps and your own breathing. When negative or critical thoughts intrude, simply return to “just noticing.” Such “mindfulness in the moment” is representative of a type of mini meditation that is possible throughout the workday and leads to a less distracted, more focused “you” when it’s time to address the work at hand. These examples show how the workplace can shift to one that is more encouraging and empowering when more leaders choose to “observe the positives,” and practice “just noticing.”...

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Thanking My First Mentor

Posted by on Aug 6, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Thanking My First Mentor

I’ve recently begun following the #thankyourmentor series on LinkedIn where various bloggers, some famous and some not, are sharing a letter of thanks to those who have had a key influence on their career success. After reading the excellent and inspiring tales of the impact of mentors on the personal and professional success of the writers, I thought I’d share what I learned from one of the many wonderful mentors who’ve helped shape my career. My grandfather married my grandmother in his late 40’s, taking on her family of eight children and 15 grandchildren as his own. For most of his life, he was a long haul truck driver punctuating long periods on the road with a few days at home before heading back out on the road. The comfortable cadence of home and away made driving a truck the perfect job for him – he was, above all things, a creature of habit. My earliest (and best) memories of him were joining in on his daily routine when he was home from the road. His days always started with a full breakfast, where, at five years old he introduced me to the joys of coffee. Over breakfast he read the local and national news catching up on what he’d missed while on the road. With breakfast done, the day moved on to wrenching on his old Dodge or the tractor-trailer. With the maintenance work done, it was time to visit the neighbors and see how he might help them out with whatever they needed around the house. Evenings were spent catching up with friends and family, investing in the relationships he’d built over time. And through it all, he took time to share the experiences with me. Throughout the years he was alive, I watched this pattern repeat itself countless times. We spent hours covered in oil and grease underneath his truck or helping others and as I look back, I learned a lot about life, but about leading: Invest in building your knowledge and skills every day – Unfortunately, leadership in today’s organizations is often ruled by the tyranny of the urgent and it can be easy to neglect building and maintaining your skills. Set aside even 10 minutes each day to stay current on key trends in your industry or explore new leadership techniques. Make time for maintenance – An organization’s culture has tremendous impact on the success or failure of the organization. Strong culture doesn’t happen by accident, and once the ideal culture is created it has to be regularly maintained. Leaders are in a unique position to maintain the culture by consistently demonstrating desired behaviors. Be conscious each day about visibly doing the things that will maintain your desired culture. Relationships matter most – In Relationship Momentum, Brian Church writes, “At the center of every success you will find a pivotal relationship. Conversely, you can trace the cause of most failures to a relationship vacuum or breakdown.” As leaders, the relationships you build throughout the organization will be a key determinant of your success. Living in the culture of busyness we’ve created in the world of work, relationships can often fall by the wayside. It is essential that leaders are intentional about building relationships at multiple levels of the organization. Never be too busy...

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How Sponsors Are Different

Posted by on Jul 10, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

How Sponsors Are Different

Professional guidance comes in a variety of forms. It is important for leaders to recognize the different roles they may play in others’ professional development, and equally important to recognize the type of guidance leaders themselves need to grow. One such distinction is the difference between the role of coach, mentor, and sponsor. What makes a sponsor different from a coach or mentor? In sponsoring, an action component emerges to set it apart from both coaching and mentoring. Sponsors are your advocates. Sponsors are actively invested in your future by specifically and publically naming you for advancement opportunities. Sponsors not only help you see what possibilities might be available, they also throw your name in the ring of potential candidates. They are betting on you with their professional reputation by sharing their network and connecting you to your next development opportunity or career move. Yet, just as with a mentor or a coach, to have or be a sponsor requires a reciprocal relationship—one that is built over time, through many interactions developing trust and respect. Why seek a sponsor, or be one? The action-oriented professional advocacy of a sponsor is tough to beat. And while some of us may like to think we get ahead through our individual hard work alone, we often need a champion to help that hard work get noticed by the right people, at the right time. Many professionals, especially women, are over-mentored and under-sponsored, while not advancing as they’d hoped. Being a sponsor can provide a rewarding relationship where you not only support the advancement of another, you also build relationships with high achievers who will likely be loyal contributors to your vision or mission. By encouraging others in your networks to become sponsors, you build a cadre of support and surround yourself with a strong pool of talented resources to call upon. This also helps bust the pervasive myth that sponsors can’t be peers. While it might be more likely that earlier in your career a sponsor will be several levels above you, the more you progress, the more likely it is that someone closer to your peer group will simply be in a different position of influence to help you move forward. Finally, it can be good business to help people develop, move up, and yes, move out. The time can come in everyone’s career when the next right move is not within the same organization. As a leader, one responsibility is to simultaneously advocate both what is good for the organization as well as good for the people. Someone who has felt supported to grow even when that means they go outside of your organization may be more inclined to return, even several years later, with more experience and skills to contribute to the organization in a new and valuable way. Whether you’re looking for a sponsor, or looking to be one, here are a few more considerations. As the sponsor: Consider that you are likely in a mentor or mentor-like role now. What would it take on your part to turn that into a sponsor role? Do you feel comfortable enough with your mentee to do so? What else is needed? How might this be mutually beneficial? As the sponsored professional: Consider speaking with your coach or mentor about your...

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Peer Coaching: Modeling the Coaching Community

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring | 1 comment

Peer Coaching: Modeling the Coaching Community

With International Coaching Week taking place last month, it’s important to take a look at what the coaching community itself is doing as we continue to think about ways in which organizations can build a strong coaching culture. Today, let’s explore a common practice in the coaching community that can help organizations build a coaching culture from within: Peer Coaching. What is Peer Coaching? Peer coaching gathers together peers (often within an organization, but not always) to use critical coaching skills and offer non-judgmental support of others’ growth, in a community of colleagues who “understand” you and your industry. In many ways, the coaching community is a model for this. This is a community built on, for, and by strong, healthy relationships. Coaches coach other coaches. A profession comprised of many independent contractors, these entrepreneurs depend on quality relationships in order to contribute their skills, constantly learn, share best practices, and build business. The Value of Peer Coaching Coaches recognize the imperative to add value when ever and where ever they can, and to strengthen relationships, new and old. For professional coaches, this community coaching comes naturally. They do this for a living, and it makes sense that they would take advantage of their community to develop and support one another. What about organizations where these skills aren’t inherent to the job? What about when it doesn’t come so naturally? The truth is that organizations can’t afford not to develop the capacity for peer coaching. Who doesn’t need to listen well? Who doesn’t need to be asked the right question to take the next step forward? Consider a new perspective to get clarity on an issue? Turn to a colleague for a sanity check? Peer coaching can help get straight to the core of building a healthy organizational culture that is supportive enough to withstand the vulnerability necessary for honest self-assessment, and focused on the intrinsic motivation needed to change behavior over the long-term. Positive behavior change is a performance improvement which everyone can benefit from. What’s more, peer coaching can multiply its positive impact by modeling behavior for others. As peers coach one another, they take on a perspective that seeks to build the capacity of others and begin to use that perspective in regular interactions with their employees, and even their bosses. This makes the idea of performance improvement for themselves and their direct reports an opportunity to seek openly, rather than a stigma to avoid. Finally, peers know they have a safe network to go back to when difficult situations arise. By using one another as peer coaches, individuals increase their likelihood of knowledge sharing across departments and domains, increase collaboration opportunities, and hone their skills to perform at the next level. By training employees in fundamental coaching skills and encouraging the use of these skills with one another and their employees, peer coaching can help organizations embed the learning and shift the mindsets needed to have a strong coaching...

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Permission to Self-Reflect

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Permission to Self-Reflect

As coaches, we know we wouldn’t be serving our clients if we did not ask them to reflect in ways that heighten their awareness, prompt new insights, and lead to new action. Getting our clients, our team members, or our employees to slow down enough to reflect can be a challenge. In a “do more” culture, doing the unseen work of self-reflection can feel difficult to justify. Coaches and leaders using coaching skills are not immune either. Many coaches also have their own coach for just this reason. While we challenge others to slow down and self-reflect, we too should remember the benefits this provides. As the famous saying goes “Where ever you go, there you are.” Your thoughts and beliefs impact your emotions and actions. You bring our own history, knowledge, skills, preferences, beliefs, and biases with you in any interaction. As a leader it is crucial for you to reflect on your beliefs about roles at work. Are any of these beliefs holding you back from being in better relationship with your employees? This heightened self-awareness provides opportunities for your own shifts in beliefs and changes in behavior. One way to spur self-reflection in your daily life is to consider being present, aware, and focused—being mindful—during your interactions with others, and even when working alone. What are you paying attention to? Is your attention there serving you? Self-reflection also gives you clues into how you implement foundational coaching skills, like Observing, Inquiring, Listening, and Responding. With a little consideration, you can make strides in your effectiveness actively using these skills to coach others. Being mindful is one way to introduce a process for noticing your own experience. You can reveal to yourself your inner dialogue, your impulses, your emotional responses, and choose how you want to respond, rather than react without intention. Doing all of this means that you can be more available to your employees, teammates, or clients, because you are aware of what you’re bringing to the table, what you allow to serve the relationship, and what you won’t let get in the way. As explored in the newly revised Anytime Coaching course, using self-reflection and mindfulness prepares you to support others through coaching practices, any time. To start to notice your own self-reflection habits, consider the following questions and what might be different for you if you increased your self-reflection habits. When do you self-reflect? How much time do you allow for self-reflection? When does self-reflection lead you to change your behavior? If you don’t spend much time in self-reflection, why not? How do you support your employees’ self-reflection practices? What in your life would be different if you spent just five minutes a day in self-reflection? Committing to a self-reflection practice models this desired behavior for others. It creates congruence between what you espouse and what you actually practice, signaling that this is a valued and accepted approach to work and performance...

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Holacracy and Coaching and Being A Manager

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Holacracy and Coaching and Being A Manager

Late last month I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Human Capital Institute’s Summit in Orlando. The keynote speaker – David Novak, Executive Chairman of Yum! Brands – spoke at length about leadership, engagement, and the importance of people. One point in particular that he made reinforced a trend that I’ve been watching for a while. Novak’s point was that the supervisor role has changed. It’s not in the process of changing or about to change. It has already changed. In the past, the supervisor was an overseer whose primary role was to assign tasks, ensure attendance, and conduct annual performance reviews and other administrative functions. We now have strong evidence that this approach was less than effective. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Deloitte finds that a small percentage of organizations regard their traditional performance management systems as effective. Today, the supervisor is a coach who, much like a sports coach, motivates employees to achieve high performance. Today’s supervisor doesn’t have all the answers to give to employees; instead, they help guide their employees to find the answer on their own. As a result, employees are empowered, have a sense of ownership, and are engaged in their work. A few days after the conference, I learned that Tony Hsieh of Zappos issued an ultimatum to his workforce in the form of a long memo: Adopt Holacracy or quit. According to Hsieh, Zappos had been operating partly under holacracy and partly under a more traditional management style. The company will now fully transition to holacracy as its form of management. What is holacracy? It is self-organization and self-management. Supervisors no longer exist. Structure and hierarchy still exist, but traditional pyramid structures are replaced with a set of interlocking structures and processes that inform how teams are set up and how decisions get made. In a holacracy, roles may exist for a short period of time and then are discarded when no longer needed. The focus of the company is on creating fluid structures, roles, and processes that can be rapidly transformed and adapted. This does not necessarily mean that traditional management tasks have gone away. Rather, these tasks are spread more widely across the organization. More room exists for leadership among every contributor. You can read more about holacracy, including the Holacracy Constitution, at an organization called Holacracy One. Holacracies take the “supervisor as coach” idea and push it to the extreme. In a self-managed organization, different people might coach others on certain aspects of the work, depending on the individual’s goals, skills, and expertise. So, coaching is not a permanent role so much as a set of behaviors that anyone in the organization can use. Not every organization is ready to transform itself overnight into a holacracy. But, supervisors as well as others can learn coaching skills to help their organizations become more performance-focused. In their book Anytime Coaching, Teresa Wedding Kloster and Wendy Sherwin Swire identify coaching behaviors that managers can learn, including the following: Tame your “Fast Results Gene” and take the time to observe. Look for verbal and nonverbal congruence in employees’ behavior. Leaders who can accurately identify how their employees feel are more adept at adjusting their communication style to meet the employee’s needs. Practice “extreme listening.”...

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Support Your Mentors

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Support Your Mentors

Throughout my career, I have had the good fortune of having several excellent mentors. They naturally took me under their wing, took an interest in my development and gave their time, energy, and expertise without my even having to ask. I am so thankful for them, knowing that my career most certainly would have taken a different direction had it not been for their genuine interest and commitment to our relationship. This organic mentoring, though, doesn’t happen for everyone and organizations cannot rely on this more natural process as a way to engage and develop their people. We know that mentorship can be an excellent tool for employees to receive guidance and perspective as they move through their career. When done well, both parties gain value. The mentor contributes their expertise, the mentee can develop a trusted confidante, and they both learn from one another’s experience. While there is usually no shortage of interested mentees, organizations can struggle to maintain a robust pool of mentors. Let’s talk about the impact this can have and some ideas to turn this around. Address Mentor Burnout Professionals who volunteer to serve as mentors often have a desire to create a positive impact in someone else’s life, a desire to give, and believe in the value of what they have to offer. Yet when mentors are in short supply, programs often rely on the same volunteers to take on several mentees at a time with each new program cycle. Mentors can feel overloaded or burned out. What starts off as an energizing way for the mentor to give back can turn into an energy draining commitment. So what happens? The answer to that might lie in the way the mentors give. When the pool of mentors is smaller than the pool of mentees, the matching process isn’t always able to meet the specific needs or hopes of the mentee, and may make matches that require a mentor to go out of their realm of expertise, comfort, or preferred way of giving to accommodate the mentee. For example, some mentors might be connectors, best able (and energized) to give by helping their mentee to grow their network, introducing them to a variety of other professionals. Some mentors might prefer to help a mentee improve their writing or communications style. Yet when they are matched with multiple mentees that require they give in ways that don’t energize them, burnout can easily take hold. Save the perpetual givers from themselves So check in. Ask current and prospective mentors to describe the way they can best give to a mentee, and actually try to match for that. What are the mentor’s favorite ways to engage? What ways tap their strengths and preferences, not only their experience? Adam Grant writes, “Givers don’t burn out because they devote too much time and energy to giving. They burn out when they’re working with people in need but are unable to help effectively.” Seek other potential mentors To help meet the demand for mentors, consider individuals in your organization that are flying under the radar. Who has untapped institutional knowledge? Who might benefit from being personally invited to participate? For many, the decision to participate, or not, rests in the value they feel they have to offer. We habituate to our...

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Inside the Minds of Chief Learning Officers

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Inside the Minds of Chief Learning Officers

On March 10 Steve Maier, President of Management Concepts moderated a thought-provoking panel discussion at a recent Training Officers Consortium (TOC) luncheon that included the following esteemed Federal Chief Learning Officers (CLOs):   Sheila Wright, Housing and Urban Development Michael Casey, General Services Administration Jeffrey Vargas, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Susan Camarena, Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration We’ve all heard the phrase “do more with less” – especially in government – but during the panel the idea of “do more with what we have” resonated throughout the presentation. Federal CLOs face the dilemma of maintaining an environment of a highly skilled workforce with diminishing resources – the need for increased productivity with less human capital resources. The shift of encouraging employees to be empowered about their own career paths and not rely on their management to create opportunities is increasing daily. Below are a few key points made by the panelists: When asked if their respective training programs are ‘top-driven’ (i.e. have managerial buy-in) the panelists were in agreement that professional development is critical at all levels and starts from the ground up. All panelists noted their organizations have the buy-in, but with caveats. They stressed that employees must still empower themselves to take training, and that the conversation should migrate from training toward performance improvement. In addition, using resources internally to share and transfer knowledge is another way to promote a learning environment beyond just executing on training. When faced with the question, “In the current fiscal environment (with declining budgets) what is your number one strategic training priority?” we learned: Strategy: Develop an employee development strategy that embeds the idea of ownership, empowerment, and focus on your own career and development; Emphasize that career pathing is key to cultivating that ownership. Collaboration: Work collectively with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to get economies of scale in learning. Empower: Focus on enhancing leadership capability and capacity; Help people to learn how to lead, not how to manage. Focus: Emphasize technical training. Determine a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows you to do everything you need to do. Determine the kinds of training that learners expect to receive via “eLearning.” Make sure delivery of learning meets the needs of all the generations taking the classes. We wanted know where the future lies, in their opinion, so we asked, “What are you looking at in five years’ time?” Panelists noted: Extend the reach of learning & development efforts by 50 percent. Know when it is a people problem and when it is a technology problem. (Technology can help, but can’t solve all problems. It takes three to five years to change a culture.) Change the landscape of how learning and development is perceived. Train people with skills to do not only their job, but any job; Train them to lead and manage. Integrate technology; CLOs need to be ready to become learning technologists – technology impacts the design, development, and delivery of learning. Finally, as Management Concepts is an education provider, we asked: “What programs or courses would you like to see developed?”  And related…  “What training needs are not being met currently by your current educational providers?” We heard: Use a blended approach, such as coaching, as part of...

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Considerations for Building a Strong Coaching Culture

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

So you’re thinking about bringing coaching into your organization, but not sure where to start. How do you know what kind of coaching is right? What are you willing to do to make it work? Three coaching modalities are most prominent within organizations, including: External coaches Internal coaches Managers/leaders using coaching skills According to a recent joint report by the International Coach Federation and the Human Capital Institute, Building a Coaching Culture, organizations with strong coaching cultures seek to develop a combination of all three of these modalities that uniquely suit the context of their organization. When combined in the right proportion to fit the culture, engagement and performance improve compared to non-coaching cultures. Why the distinctions matter. The more training you have in coaching skills, the easier it becomes to work with someone in a way that seeks their input (not just give your own directives) for bringing out the best in themselves. I can’t count the number of seasoned professionals I’ve known who, after going through an Accredited Coach Training Program, have said to me “All this time I thought what I was doing was coaching. Now I know what coaching really is, and that’s not what I’ve been doing!” Each modality below has a different level of coaching expertise typically associated with it. If you want to build a strong coaching culture, you’ll begin to invest in building both external and internal coaching capacities. Let’s begin to explore what each modality involves, as well as their benefits and challenges, in order to generate a conversation about how you could introduce coaching into your organization using the right mix. We’ll start with the most common modalities: External Coaching: External coaches are independent professionals who are typically hired on a contract basis to work on a specific coaching program. Ask about their coaching school or level of credentialing from the International Coach Federation; they should have hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of experience. They provide an opportunity for employees to work with a well-trained, yet uninvolved third-party who supports the growth and development of the employee, in whatever direction the employee chooses to pursue. They’re not the one telling you what to work on. These coaches help you look at what is most important in any professional and personal domain, get excited about possibilities, come up with your own answers and take action. When organizations seek external coaches, individuals often question how well the external coaches understand their company culture. For the same reason, some coachees may be less trusting of external coaches, even though they are probably the most likely to maintain true client confidentiality. Internal Coaching: Internal coaches are employees of the organization, often called on to fulfill a range of HR roles and may or may not have a professional coach credential. Their position within the company provides important advantages and disadvantages. Being knowledgeable about company culture, they can provide a sense of empathy and understanding to their coachee, while also being able to spot organizational trends through working across departments and leadership levels. However, their position within the organization often raises doubts about their ability to maintain client confidentiality. They can be less expensive than external coaches though, and might be a viable way for organizations to provide coaching while building a stronger...

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Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Acquisition, Coaching & Mentoring, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Each January, we all make resolutions with varying degrees of sincerity and dedication. As we get further and further from New Year celebrations, life has a way of creeping in. Achieving lifestyle changes is not solely about exercise or dieting; it should also be about improving your professional competence and positioning yourself and/or your staff for future success. This year, why not try a different resolution? Are you an individual trying to manage your career? Resolve to focus on your career. Ask for the stretch assignment. Explore mentorship opportunities. Challenge yourself to hone current skills or learn new ones. Go for that promotion. Ask for training and professional development. Be ambitious! Get out of whatever rut you may find yourself and commit to creating and fostering a personal path to career success and an environment of learning and advancement. Perhaps you are more seasoned, and at a more advanced place in your career development. Why not investigate a certificate program; successful completion can demonstrate your knowledge and dedication.  Another possibility is getting a leadership coach or mentor.  If you’re lucky, your organization may have a formal mentorship program, but you can do it informally too.  Ask for over-the-shoulder coaching, stretch assignments, or simply discussing your career aspirations with a trusted co-workers can also make a huge difference. Are you a supervisor?  Maybe your resolution is to bolster the skillset of your direct reports.  I’m sure someone took an interest in your development—pay it forward. As the President’s FY15 Budget noted, steps are in place to “restore cuts to Federal employee training to help train, retain, and recruit a skilled and effective Federal workforce, targeting investments in employee training to common, but high-impact areas such as customer service or information technology.” This statement announces a hopeful and positive change, a return to the time-proven practice of investing in people.  Feds are again able to focus on seeking the learning and development that keeps them – and their staffs – efficient, productive, up-to-date, and effective. Career development for your personnel will enhance productivity and morale.  Smart investments in quality learning solutions will help deter the loss of high-performing Federal employees to the private sector. Identify the stepping stones that will take you – and your staff – to the next level. Recognize and reward your dedicated employees and groom them for future success in positions of greater responsibility. Don’t wait for your staff to ask for training. Identify the development opportunities that will lead them to successful performance. As a professional development and performance improvement company, clearly we value formal training. It is important to remember, however, that remaining professionally competitive doesn’t necessarily entail only classroom training. Career development is a broad mix of mentorship, coaching, challenging work assignments, support, industry association, and professional certifications that together enhance the skillsets of Federal employees. Abraham Lincoln once said “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.” Don’t leave your career or the development of your staff to chance.  Positive developments result from intentional steps toward a goal. I love to hear stories about a team finishing a challenging project or a student getting promoted.  We succeed when you succeed because we are dedicated to unleashing the potential of people, teams, and organizations.  Now, what is your resolution? Tom Dungan,...

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Sherpa 101: Mentoring Tips for Guiding the Next Organizational Generation

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership | 0 comments

When many people think of Sherpas, they think of rugged tour guides. The value of a Sherpa, however, is not just their ability to lead you to the summit making sure you have the right gear and make the right turns on the trail. It is their ability to read the mountain, adjusting to cues you cannot see, as well as their relationships with others on the trail who can provide information and assistance that makes the journey with them so different than if you went with just another Bear Grylls. It is not Sherpas’ general skills as mountaineers that make them invaluable: it is their understanding of how to navigate both the people and the terrain on that specific mountain with all its nuances and unique features. Sherpas have a tacit knowledge of their environment – both physical and relational. Moreover, some scientists have even proposed that Sherpas have a physiological anomaly that enables them to live and work at high altitudes longer than other people. Simply put, they have adapted to their environment. If you look at who in an organization has the tacit knowledge and has been able to adapt their personal style, you’ll see the making of a good mentor. If that person is you, then your organization needs you to mentor others even if no formal program exists. When an organizational culture is highly complex – like Mount Everest, as most Federal agencies are, knowing how to get things done may not be obvious to those new to the agency. The mission may be clear, but when the formal roles and responsibilities don’t align with how things really work, or when systems and processes are unclear or inconsistent, mentoring can be the difference between a new employee reaching peak performance or being buried under an avalanche of confusion. The good news is that those relatively new to the organization will naturally gravitate toward colleagues who can – and are willing to explain how to get things done: mentees seek and find informal mentors naturally. They will find a Sherpa. You should be prepared to guide them when they come to you.  If you connect as a mentor with a less-experienced colleague, here are a few tips that can make the interaction feel successful for all parties: Invest in their success. Align your own success with the success of your mentee. The reward is helping them grow as a person, learn to navigate the culture, and become more productive in the process. Make mentoring a priority. You are there as a resource for your mentee, and that suggests you and your mentee both value the relationship and its impact equally. Meet them where they are. Make sure you meet the mentee where they are in terms of skill and motivation. If they are wary, bring them along more slowly. Likewise, if they are high energy, don’t drag your feet. You can’t help them mature in their role without their agreement, so you should work to be an enabling force, not an impediment to their development. Be the change you want to see. Model the behavior you are trying to help them adopt. Remember this is a development opportunity for you, too. If you can model how to take risks appropriately, you both will gain by...

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Federal Workforce Trends Not So Scary When You Have a Plan

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

As GAO reported in its February 2013 High Risk update, agencies must integrate strategic human capital planning with broader organizational strategic planning  to develop the talent, skill, and experience mix required to cost- effectively execute mission and program goals. Most critical to the strategic human capital plan is the workforce planning that informs it. Workforce planning has become so increasingly complex in the Federal Government, however, that it’s scarier than Freddy Kruger reading you a bedtime story. Why is it complex? Invasion of the Boomer Snatchers: 31 percent of Feds will be eligible to retire by 2017, taking with them vast institutional knowledge, networks, and technical expertise. Experts have been expecting the retirement wave since 2012, but both a downgrade in economic circumstances and an upgrade in physical well-being have led to many Boomers working longer than they had initially planned. Once their boomerang children finally move out and their portfolios recover from The Great Recession, however, boomers are going to want to spend their time enjoying their retirement. A mass exodus is very difficult challenge in workforce planning. Including Phased Retirement programs as part of your workforce plan may be your secret weapon in combatting the brain drain. The Skills Changeling:  The skills needed in Government are changing. The GAO reports “an increase in employment from 2004 to 2012 occurred within occupational categories that require higher skill and educational levels.” This trend is expected to continue as demand for professional occupations (e.g., doctors and scientists) and administrative occupations (e.g., financial and program managers) increases. Add to that cyber and the face of the Federal workforce is changing more quickly than ever before. HR professionals must not only account for the change in the workforce plan, but also consider how recruiting and retention needs may change. Pennywise: The private sector has not been clowning around with salary increases and the Federal Government has not been keeping up, increasing the war for talent. According to Mercer’s 2014/2015 US Compensation Planning Survey, the average raise in base pay is expected to be 3.0% in 2015, up slightly from 2.9% in 2014, 2.8% in 2013 and 2.7% in 2012. According to the GAO, “Spending on total government-wide compensation for each full-time equivalent (FTE) position grew by an average of 1.2 percent per year…  In terms of employee pay per FTE, spending rose at an average annual rate of 1 percent per year.” Certainly, civil servants aren’t in it for the money, but total rewards matter. More than ever managers need to find non-monetary ways to motivate and reward employees. The Incredible Shrinking Government: Government has had to do more with less for some time now and that trend will continue. BLS projects that the size of the Federal workforce will drop by another 13 percent over the next nine years. The United States population, however, is expected to continue to increase at about 0.77% a year, which is about 9% over the next nine years. The Federal Government will have fewer employees servicing more customers. This makes it imperative that HR has a workforce plan that has the right skills and the right mix of employees to maximize efficiency. Child’s Play: The millennials aren’t children anymore and have their own unique generational identity. Millennials like Government work and value service, but they also...

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Effective Mentoring as Part of Phased Retirement: HR’s Role

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Implementing OPM’s Phased Retirement program creates a powerful opportunity for HR to drive value and productivity through an agency mentoring program. Moreover, according to OPM, “the main purpose of Phased Retirement is to enhance the mentoring and training of the employees who will be filling the positions or taking on the duties of more experienced retiring employees.” Federal HR professionals can rise to the challenge through a structured process for implementing the mentoring program. Although OPM has yet to write implementation guidance for the mentoring component of the Phased Retirement program beyond that it must be 20% of the retirees’ time, agency HR leaders can step up to help their agencies realize the value that Congress intended of the program. HR leaders should: Make Phased Retirement Mentoring a Part of the Overall Human Capital Strategy In general, mentoring program design starts with defining the objectives of the program. In the case of Phased Retirements, however, decisions must first be made about how the agency implements Phased Retirement mentoring into the existing human capital strategy and aligns to any already developed mentoring programs. HR professionals should consider: How Phased Retirement will be integrated in existing plans such as succession plans; Whether there are efficiencies to be gained by aligning with other programs; and Whether the program be used to “pass the baton” to one person or prepare multiple people for new roles. Phased Retirement mentoring should not stand alone, but rather should be part of your overall strategy. Define the Objectives through the Lens of Phased Retirement I believe the key question is “What will the agency lose when the retirees leave”? Answer that and your primary objectives become clear. Traditional mentoring programs, such as the program at EPA, often focus on a broad range of topics such as building and retaining a well-rounded cadre of employees as well as improving communication and collaboration across organization lines. These programs are not designed to address the loss of employees. With a Phased Retirement program, the mentoring program may need to focus more on knowledge transfer more than the “softer” skills required to the job. A program focused on knowledge transfer will look very different from a traditional mentoring program such as those designed to enculturate new employees. Design the Program Using Multiple Mentoring Methods What is the universe of mentoring solutions available to meet the objectives? One-on-one mentoring is only one possible component of the mentoring program. Phased retirees, who work half-time, will spend 20% of their time – about a half day a week – on mentoring. This is a lot more time than participants in most mentoring programs allot for program activities. As such, HR has an opportunity to rethink mentoring based on the objectives. Some mentors may have multiple mentees. Group mentoring may also be beneficial. Consider using panel discussions, online discussion boards, and other methods to broaden the reach of the program beyond a one-on-one relationship. You may also want to consider having mentors work with mentees in entirely different departments or roles to help break down organizational silos or develop lateral career move opportunities for mentees. Design the Management for Success After you have a program design, you need to determine the level of effort required to support the program. How many hours of HR’s time...

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A New Role for Mentoring: Work-Life Integration Coaching

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership | 0 comments

Be honest. When you hear the term work-life balance, what is your instant reaction? Personally, it makes me laugh (sarcastically) because it seems absolutely unachievable. Despite my daily effort year after year to balance the scale, as the life side of my equation grows more complex and the work side of my equation consistently intensifies, one side inevitably wins at the expense of the other. For most, the daily wins and losses for work and life likely average out over time, but the constant battle to achieve a zero sum game leaves us exhausted and overwhelmed. Stop keeping score. Integrate instead. As someone who straddles the line between two generations, GenX and Millennial, I feel the GenX tug to dig deeper and work harder in order to strike that perfect balance, but I also completely understand the tactics Millennial are using to scrap the division between work and life and seek greater integration between the two. What does integration mean in the work-life sense? Rather than compartmentalizing work and life and tracking the number of hours we dedicate to each, Millennials focus on: Getting the job done, not being slaves to the clock: The term 9 to 5 is foreign to Millennials. They prefer to have clear expectations about project goals and objectives, and individually manage their time to get the job done. Work can be accomplished outside of the office and during non-traditional workday hours. Multitasking: Yes, there are times when devices need to be set aside, but Millennials are adept at seamlessly bouncing in and out of work and social networking time throughout the day. We all have individual routines for staying productive; maybe drawing such firm lines between work and social isn’t so productive after all. Cultivating relationships: Millennials know that work is a lot more enjoyable and productive when they have friendly relationships with co-workers. It breeds accountability, engagement, and they are more likely to stick around to devote their talents to achieving organizational goals. Seeking their passion: The saying goes that you never work a day in your life when you do what you love. Some learn this early in life, but most of us have gone down a professional path that may not directly feed our passions. We have to find things within our jobs that spark our individual passions. Millennials are innately better at focusing their energy and attention on the things that feed their passion, and the other generations need to feel less guilty and more empowered to seek ways to feed their passion. Perhaps the so-called “Me” generation (who are, in reality, the opposite of lazy and self-absorbed) is closer to having this problem figured out, or is at least onto something worth trying. And, thanks to leadership experts like Stewart Friedman and his research on Total Leadership and Leading the Life you Want, other generations can learn ways to integrate work and life that fit their personal values. Mentors as work-life integration coaches As I’ve been thinking of ways to integrate my work and life demands, I quickly realized that I need help. What if I could find a work-life integration “coach” to help me identify the intersections between my work and non-work lives, and uncover ways to ignite and feed my personal passions? Let’s face it, if you’ve...

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How Coaching Really Worked – At Least in This Case

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Man, was I ever stuck. I had struggled with this problem, literally, for years, tearing my hair out, frustrated, and increasingly pessimistic about a solution. It was a chance encounter at a coaches’ conference (of all places) when I sat down for lunch with the amazing coach Karen Gravenstine. In less than five minutes, everything shifted. The door opened, and I had cracked the case. Before explaining just what happened, it’s important to focus on one incredibly important aspect of coaching, a feature that, among others, helps give the practice its power and results. We all get stuck sometimes. We go around and around in our thought loops, trying to find an answer. The stuckness can come from the way we are looking at the problem or issue. We may be making assumptions we’re not even aware of. There may be possibilities we hadn’t even considered. Enter the coach, who with fresh eyes, an objective perspective, can help us discover new and different ways to frame the problem, which can generate new moves – solutions. This can take the form of a question, or feedback. In my case, it was feedback. Karen said it sounded like one aspect of a project I was wrestling with was draining me, and another aspect energizing me. As she stated this, a distinction arose in me, and I immediately realized that in order to achieve the goal, I had to offload the portion of the thing that was blocking all progress. In my case, it was around either standing up a non-profit (huge administrative heavy lifting) or partnering with an organization with complementary aims, to whom the services I was envisioning would also create a benefit. So you know, the project itself is around helping disadvantaged women who made it to college learn leadership skills. I realized I couldn’t pull it all off by my lonesome, and perhaps I then joined the millions of managers and leaders who learned the hard way (lack of results) about the need to delegate, in order to focus on what they uniquely can bring, and work they are good at. (I have to tell you in the self-disclosure department it was a pretty big “ouch” to experience the lesson I have taught to many managers and leaders.) As I let go of the previously unconscious need to be in control of everything, I experienced a huge surge in energy around work that I could do well, and which was meaningful. I had painted myself into a corner with this deep-seated belief that I had to manage everything. Karen created a walkway over the paint and out of the room I had been trapped in. And she did it just by confirming which aspect of the work I could really get behind, which she had noticed as I talked about the vision and hopes for the project. Coaches do lots of things, and I hope this one example will help illustrate one of those, and how powerful that can be. Thank you,...

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What is the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring?

Posted by on Mar 28, 2014 in Acquisition, Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership | 0 comments

One of the most frequent sources of confusion about coaching is what it is in relation to mentoring. There are some distinct differences, and then some practices that can overlap. The distinction is important, as most groups in leadership development activities typically reverse the true definitions. The key difference is that a mentor usually has some superior knowledge, wisdom or experience, and is able to give helpful, specific information to a mentee. A mentor might understand the politics of the organization, know who’s who or how to get results in the specific, unique terrain of the organization. Coaches more often help clients come to insight about their own needs, actions and situations. This is usually done through open-ended questions, but also with feedback, assessments and other tools. A key difference is that for a mentor, there is usually a right answer or solution “out there.” This means there is some objective element, such as the best way to get things done in the culture, or a great person to talk to in order to get information. With a coach, the process is more about what’s “in here.” This means the values, beliefs, experiences and ultimately choices the client makes. The coach much less often dispenses specific information, but rather helps clients internally clarify and choose. (And part of the clarity may involve finding a mentor who can help the client distinguish fact from opinion.) Where it can become confusing is that some mentors actually use coaching practices. They may stop giving information and start asking questions to help the mentee think things through. And, it is not unknown for coaches to share experiences as a potentially useful way of looking at an issue. However, in almost all cases, the coach will share the experience or knowledge as just one way to look at the issue, not the “solution.” The coach remembers that the client’s context may be different, and such information is usually offered as just one possibility, always with the client choosing what he or she thinks will work best for him or her. This keeps ownership with the...

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