Archive for January, 2011

Leadership Coaching Focused on Strengths

Not long ago I spoke with a mid-level executive who had been asked to participate in a 360 feedback process.  As a result of that exercise he found, to no one’s surprise, that he had several vivid strengths along with several noticeable weaknesses.  The coach he was working with spent time discussing those strengths; the executive’s direct manager, also made aware of the results, began to speak to him instead about how to shore up his weaknesses.

As business and executive coaches, we are commonly engaged to work with leaders who have the potential to grow into the next level of leadership. And often the leader’s manager positions the coaching engagement as a means to help the leader get there. The rub is when it starts to become evident that there is an undercurrent where the organization really wants to bring in a coach to “fix” a leader or, in the case of my client’s experience, to focus on the weaknesses that his manager observed. His manager came from a place of “solving a problem” versus enhancing a strength.

We know, however, that there is true power in emphasizing strengths, building from those strengths, and using “appreciative” tools and techniques. By focusing on strengths and providing our clients with the means to recognize them, practice them and deepen them, our clients develop an even greater appreciation for the strengths in themselves and, ultimately, in others.

So how do we bridge that gap?  How do we work not only with our clients, but with the other relevant stakeholders, at least some of whom expect us to “solve problems?”

In my own coaching, I have had occasional meetings with organizations who were shopping for a potential coach, yet it soon became evident that the manager’s objective was to fix a leader’s weaknesses, to get them to stop doing the things that the manager sees as deficient behaviors.

My recommendation, in those cases, is to offer a dyad coaching approach — coach the leader to demonstrate and build upon his or her strengths and, concurrently, coach the manager around recognizing, observing and optimizing the leader’s strengths — both with an intention of goodwill and of deepening their working relationship. The conversations practiced and the subsequent outcomes are a win for both — recognizing and building skill and practice around strengths.

What are your thoughts about shifting a request to work on weaknesses to an intention towards strengths?

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A Coach’s New Year’s Intentions

It’s a new year, and with the changing calendar we have the opportunity to reflect upon our intentions for the work we do. Whether you are a coach or a client, looking at how we engage with our relationships, with others and with ourselves in a new, fresh way can reap outcomes beyond what we anticipate.

The Top 3 New Year’s Intentions I offer are a start. I invite you to set aside some time on your own to reflect and discover what’s most important for you. For now…here’s my Top 3 list:

New Year’s Intention #1:  Listen Attentively.

Keen, attentive listening to what is – what our body is telling us, what our inner spirit is telling us, what we’ve heard in the past – is core to the work that we do. Quiet your mind and be attentive, not only to what you explicitly hear, but also to what you hear within the space where your thoughts exist. There are new insights to discover and to learn that form in that space: next to, underneath, and above what is actually being said or heard. Suggestions for reflection are:

  • What am I hearing?
  • What keeps coming up for me?
  • What am I pretending not to hear?
  • What resonates for me?

New Year’s Intention #2:  Follow Generously.

Be generous with yourself and others with what you discover, and be open to the “newness” that may emerge. Practice following new discoveries with a beginner’s mind, one that is curious and playful, and eschews judgment or expectation. What you notice and what comes up for you may feel awkward, like a child learning how to ride a bicycle – wobbly and unsure. Allow yourself to be open to the newness and be in a place of reflection and consideration of what might show up for you. Suggestions for reflection are:

  • What am I noticing?
  • What is here that is new?
  • What possibilities do I see?
  • What am I open to showing up for me?

New Year’s Intention #3:  Act Boldly.

We live in choice and taking action in a bold, new way can change everything. Perhaps fear of an unknown outcome has held you back from taking action in the past. If you weren’t afraid of the outcome, what might you have done? Listen attentively to what your spirit, body, emotions and mind are telling you. Take a bold step to overcome barriers that may have held you back in the past. Take steps to silence the voice – within yourself or others – that may be telling you that you “can’t”. Find a pace that feels right for you and make your way towards the shifts you’d like to achieve in your life. Suggestions for reflection are:

  • How important is this for me?
  • What does bold action look like for me?
  • If I had a choice, what would I do?
  • If I achieve this, what will I have?
  • How will I know that I reached my goal?

One final thought:  I purposely talk about New Year’s intentions rather than resolutions. For me, resolutions tend to be chores that we impose on ourselves, something outside ourselves, perhaps showing up as a bulleted list taped to our refrigerator.  Intentions, however, come alive in our consciousness and become plans for discovery and growth. What are your intentions for 2011?

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