leadership resources

Quiz Yourself: Are You Using this Important Coaching Skill?

I am blessed in my coaching practice to be able to work with a lot of coaches. Everything from students who are learning the craft to executive leaders who use coaching as a leadership tool. 

I Have an Observation

The skill of observation is underdeveloped.  Here is what I mean.

This morning I am sitting having some quiet time of meditation and prayer.  As I was sitting in contemplation I noticed the breeze that was whisking through the trees in the conservation area behind my house at varying rates of force.  At times the leaves in the trees were hardly moving, and then, with no warning, the speed would increase to a gust force. After a minute or so the air would return to a more moderate flow.

This is the skill of observation. Blocking out all other inputs and paying attention to this one thing, and then not making any judgment about it. Don’t turn it into a metaphor, or think about how to explain it. Just observe it and practice describing it.  

This skill is harder to do than it is to read about, I can assure you. As leaders, we are constantly making cause and effect assumptions.  We become skilled at what is rewarded, making decisions or explaining things so that others can understand them.  All very important skills. I am not trying to say that your decision-making is not important, it for sure is. In fact, I often tell young leaders what they get paid to do is make judgments.  However, if we believe that quality inputs are critical to good judgment then perhaps observation trumps outcome.

Give It A Try

The next meeting you go to, or one-on-one interaction you have with a colleague, write down 10 things you observe from the interaction. Just make the observation and pay attention. Dial out all the distractions that might come your way and observe behavior. Notice things like tone of voice and inflection. Notice body language. Become aware of the “presence” the person exudes. 

The better we become at the skill of observation, the better coaches we will be.  We will notice things such as hurt or pain in people. We will notice when they are not on their “A” game. We might notice the exuberant joy that is written all over their face. The better we are at observing, the more skilled we will be at connecting with others emotionally.

Take a Quiz

One of the reasons I like to use assessments in my practice is that they help me, as a coach, make observations.  Sure, the person gets great feedback around important competencies. For example, in the EQi 2.0 assessment that I use, leaders get feedback on stress management. According to Dr. Henry Thompson, author of The Stress Effect, emotional intelligence is critical in determining the likelihood of the success of a leader. 

While the EQi 2.0 can give leaders feedback on competencies like stress management, often times it is the observation of the leader in the moment that can give the information that will allow the leader to make necessary judgments. If leaders don’t observe what their followers are feeling in the moment then they are more liable to react poorly. For example, an associate comes into your office and explains they have just made a mistake that could be costly in terms of dollars and customer satisfaction.  Are you able to manage your own emotion in the moment and observe what is going on with the person?  Are they anxious? Is there body language closed and distant?  Are they sweating? 

So let's play this out. What happens if:

A. You don't observe any of the associates “presence” in the moment

B. You do observe the stress the associate is under

Answer A: It is possible you will go right into fact-finding mode. Try to find out what happened, and then your natural next step is to go into problem-solving mode and to start giving orders you want the associate to execute with precision, clarity, and focus.

What is the problem with Answer A?  It isn’t physically possible when stress has hi-jacked the associate for them to focus on anything. In fact, there is a really good chance that they will walk out of your office and not remember a thing you said.

Answer B: You see the associate is stressed out, so you have them sit down. You go get them a bottle of water. You have them take a few deep breaths and perhaps you tell them a story that has a bit of self-deprecating humor. The goal here is to get the associate to relax so that you can trouble shoot and problem solve together.

What is the real skill in Answer B? You took the time to observe the situation. You notice the wind in the trees. You know the end result you need to get to but you also know you need your associate to have a clear mind when you need information.

Take Another Quiz

For this quiz, you are going to need to think about a recent interaction that you have had with an associate where there was some stress or tension in the situation. Keep this interaction in mind as you take this quiz. Use the quiz and your memory to reconstruct the events. 

This quiz is not meant at all to be diagnostic.  We are not trying to make you clinical psychologists. The purpose of this quiz is to help you dial in your skills of observation so that you notice more how your associates are showing up in your interactions.

I hope you enjoy the quiz. If you know others who might like to work on the skill of observation, why not forward this to them.










To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

Self-expression is an element of emotional intelligence that is often misunderstood.

This IS More Important Than Any 2016 Goal You May Have

Over the past few weeks, I have thrown myself into the goal setting literature. My goal in this quest was to find something pithy and interesting to spur you on as you set your 2016 goals. I wanted to share with you something that you might not read anywhere else, such as:

  • How to envision your goals and make them SMART.
  • How to set up accountability for successful goal achievement.
  • How to celebrate goal achievement, or correct your course if you are falling short on a goal.

Businessman writing Idea 2016 concept. Can use for your business concept background.

Alas, while you can find lots of support in the leadership literature for all of the above, each time I began to write something I felt it had already been written. I was a bit discouraged about what I was going to share with you on this subject.

However, this morning I was reading an article in the WallStreet Journal by Ben Summers who teaches at West Point. Ben was illustrating his point using the example of how the United States treats enemy combatants who are captured. He compared this strategy to how, throughout history, our enemies have treated us.

In the article, he states, “Character is often measured in how we react when our values are most tested." (Summers, Ben. December 29, 2015. WallStreet Journal electronic version.)

It hit me. Perhaps it is not what we write as a goal, but how we implement it as a leader that matters. This is so true of every leader, regardless of organizational role. It is true for:

  • The CEO and the mail clerk in an organization
  • The pastor and the janitor in a church
  • The Vice President of Sales and the Manager of Operations
  • The university president and the adjunct professor
  • The store manager and the night security

We will all set some sort of goal in 2016. Even if we don’t write them down (which the literature says you should do), we will be thinking of what we want to accomplish this year.

Character Matters

Could it be that more important than the commitments we make is the character we show in implementing our goals? It is not only the what we are doing, but how we are accomplishing our goals that matters.

This morning I was doing some meditation. When I meditate, I will often use the Bible as a source of inspiration. I was reading from Psalm 15, the first 5 verses. In this reflection, the writer of these verses gives an interesting list of character traits for leaders to measure themselves against. Traits such as:

  • Integrity: Do what is right and speak the truth.
  • Loyalty: Treat others with respect and fairness.
  • Self-awareness: Hold fast to what is right; Be willing to admit wrong and make changes.

How Will You Implement

What an interesting list of character traits for us to compare ourselves to in 2016!

By now, many of you have already set some goals and some stretch goals. Good for you! The question is, will you implement them with integrity?

Will you implement them without talking poorly of someone else to make yourself look good? Will you implement them with self-awareness, even if you have to say you were wrong? Will you implement your goals while not sacrificing what you know is the right thing to do? Can you muster the courage to speak the truth even when it goes against popular consensus?

Perhaps as we review goals with our supervisors and accountability partners in 2016, we can talk not only about “the what" we hope to accomplish, but also “the how” we will go about it.

My hope for you as a leader is that you will set some really outstanding goals for 2016 and that you will implement them with character, principle, and integrity!

A Challenge

Here is a challenge for you! What if when you die, you face God. And God is not as interested in “what" you did on earth but “how" you did it? Would you do anything differently in your strategy for implementing your 2016 goals?

Homework: Spend some time reviewing your 2016 goals and considering "how" you will accomplish them. Write them down if you have not already done so.  Share your ideas with a friend or colleague and ask them to hold you accountable to implementing your goals with character, principle, and integrity this year.

If you take the homework challenge this week, or even sometime this month as you are starting your year, I would love to hear from you. Drop a comment below or send me an email and let me know!