Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Coaching Self-Management: Never Step Over the Obvious

I've talked about this previously, I think. But it's ongoing and ripe for some more investigation.

I dash back and forth across the country to do my part as a caretaker of my mother. Our entire family is engaged in this remarkable display of selfless teamwork. Even great-grandchildren were doing their share being terrific, drawing pictures and "swiffering" her hardwood floors. We all love my mom/grandma/GG (one does acquire a plethora of names throughout one's life). We know she is dying and are making her last days comfortable in her hospice setting at home.

In the middle of this activity I must work. My work is coaching. My profession asks that I work at my best with each and every client no matter what.

"Never step over the obvious!"

First of all, I acknowledge what's in my "space" (to use coaching jargon). Perhaps I should just say that I acknowledge what's so and move on with the conversation. How does one do that? I mean, there's the emotion of a mother ill and dying in the next room. In my situation, my mother thinks what I do is wonderful and smiles broadly when she hears the phone ring. That alone is supportive and inspiring.

"Never step over the obvious!"

First and foremost my work as a coach requires me to be of service to my client and his/her agenda for that coaching call (I have run out of energy around the term 'session'). After thousands of hours as a coach, by now I should have acquired quite a skill being present (a core competency of coaching) ... fully present to my client and to what we're talking about. There's more to this: I also must be in the mindset of curiosity, willing to explore ideas, thoughts and concerns as a partner with my client in that hour. This is definitely possible no matter what. What makes it so or helps to make it so is that I have not stepped over the obvious (my mother's illness) neither have I made it the subject of anything but a soft "reporting in" when asked by my client. That's it! It's not complicated and frankly it's quite a lovely respite from my world to be able to engage in the world of another person.

This way of approaching professional coaching allows the coach to be effectively self-managed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Three Is Enough

I was one of three ... two younger brothers and myself ... the dreaded older sister. In relationships that's truly a triangle with interesting dynamics.

Happily for you I am not going to talk about that in this blog.

Over my 25 years in business, 17 as a coach, I've discovered the power of 3.
Huh? Okay, here's what I mean by this:

It occurs to me that holding more than three key ideas, three new thoughts, three goals, three tasks, ... get the point? ... is just about too much. There's also the idea that 3 is an uneven number so when you vote (by yourself about yourself), one side needs to win (i.e. if there are only two sides to the vote). LOL

Think about this ... as a recovering multi-tasker of amazing skill (only in my own mind) I found overwhelm to be the undesired result of taking on too many whatevers. I had this typical response to tasks that needed to be done: "Count on me! I can handle that!" And I paid a dear price for half my life lived that way. Sure, I was superwoman and the manager of all things perfectly. Only, that's not possible, is it? Something is bound to give way.

When we work with clients who are in overwhelm or even when work on ourselves, it's absolutely necessary to help them narrow the field ... great coaching questions like "What's on your list of things to do?" will open up the proverbial can of worms as the response, "I don't really know."

I work with this exact situation rather often. Sometimes it's the "first baby step" process ... and doesn't an accomplished engineer love to think about that! Well, yes. How can I tell? The pain comes through the phone. Often it's time for a little story or a bit of levity to break up the misery (my client's not mine). "Is it okay if we start at the beginning?" (This is not a therapy question since the beginning is right now.) We might discuss what's urgent and important, urgent but not important, important but not urgent (and sometimes none of the above).

By now you've figured it out: for a person in overwhelm, everything has become urgent with the fatal accompanying response to "Take care of this by 5:00" being the all accommodating "Sure." Once your client sees this little scenario (and they do quite quickly), a whole world can open up that is punctuated by the word "no" or some sort of negotiation. In order to get some buy in to their own insight, coach might ask for a current example and take it from there. Working through "how to do this" together as partners, exploring ways that fit with client's style and the task details, ... this is 'the first baby step' to taking charge and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as the light and not a train coming.

Back to three. It's always a good idea to stop at three steps, goals, ideas, tasks in order to make progress. Make it simple. Keep it simple. 'Three' is a manageable number. Afterall, overwhelm is a sure pathway to inferior work, problematic relationships, unhappiness, frustration, illness ... you name the rest. It's beautiful when overwhelm is resolved for the benefit of all.