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I’ve had the privilege of serving as a leadership coach for others for several years now, but recently I began receiving coaching again for the three reasons below.
Before we get to those, in a New Yorker article titled, Personal Best—Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you?, surgeon Atul Gawande writes, “No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own. That’s where a coach comes in.”
Atul continues to share how, at age 45 and at the top of his profession, he leveraged a coach to build his “expert competence” and move him into undiscovered areas of surgical development.
Like Atul, you are a “genius, at the top of your game, and highly respected by your colleagues,” so why on earth would you need to a coach to improve?
Will Rogers said, “When you are through changing you are through.”
Below are three reasons even the best high-achievers need a coach (and the benefits I received recently from several sessions with a leadership coach):
- Leverage a pair of outside eyes and ears. What we perceive is often quite different from how others see or hear us. The best performers look to coaches for a neutral perspective so they can view problems more objectively with less emotional attachment.
- Lift the “fog” and gain more clarity. Coaches help others see more clearly the path to action. They can ask just the right question or share a perfectly timed insight so that blinders come off and the coachee is able to create their own energy to execution…clarity is powerful!
- Make better, faster decisions. Life and work boil down to solving and acting on problems. Many of us make “emotional” or hasty decisions. Even the best lack a systematic approach for thinking through challenges. Coaches bring more rigor to the mind game while streamlining the decision-making process.
In the words of Dr. Gawande, “Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.”
If you select the wrong team member, all bets are off.
In a previous organization, I had team members concerned that an open position was still vacant after several weeks. So I felt the pressure to hire quickly without fully examining an individual’s Character, Competency and potential Chemistry.
The results were what you would suspect: it was evident after several weeks that they were not the right person for the role or organization. And I needed to own it because it was my decision.
We’ve all been there: you’re trying to fill a key vacancy while the work piles up. Results are being comprised. And you just want to “fix” the problem and select someone who generally is “good enough”. Instead of being careful, we speed up the process.
The worst thing you could do is hire quick. It’s the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot – but on purpose. Because as a leaders you have to own selecting the wrong person for the role. Likely, it was your own stress that got you into this mess.
Do yourself a favor and follow these guidelines: (and trust me, I wish I had)
- Look for both Competence and Character. Think “And” because you need both. Yes, you can train the right person, but if you think “either/or” you’ll compromise.
- If you hire and Eagle, they won’t want to work with a bunch of turkeys. Make sure your existing team is healthy. Eagles want to fly with other eagles, or they’ll fly away after awhile.
- Don’t Blame Them – Train Them. Every Eagle wants to grow, develop and become a better leader. So provide it! Don’t just direct – but DEVELOP. Yes, really good leaders will develop themselves. But don’t let that be an excuse not to care about someone else’s development. We all need others to challenge and stretch us.
There’s no fix for hiring the wrong person. I’ve rarely seen a team recover or have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide to fix all their own problems right after their hired.
Select the best people can. Correction: Select the best LEADERS you can. Leaders will produce other leaders. That’s how a high-performing team is built.
Every summer, my family would visit my grandparents in northern Michigan. They lived on a lake, so when I was young, I would go “treasure hunting” on the same small beach – the same beach I dug up the summer before. With a small children’s shovel in hand, I set out to get rich.
Of course, the only wealth I found was nice colorful rocks.
Finding the Treasure of meaningful work is much the same way – it takes digging and persistence. But you have to dig in the right place. Like a treasure map, these questions are “clues” to your treasure.
Answering these 4 questions can provide clues into your ideal work.
1. Where does your creativity come most alive?
Take a look back into your work history. When have you been the most alive? When has your creativity been released? When has your work just felt right?
Maybe your creativity comes most alive in a brainstorming session with others. Maybe you do your best work when you are alone and have space to think. We all have certain activities we can do that still leave us energized hours later.
2. What type of work would excite you the moment you woke up?
Have you ever woke up excited about your work? Have you ever had trouble sleeping at night because you were excited about work the next day?
If your initial response is “never” than you are in for a big surprise. It is possible. I have had nights when I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about the work I was going to do the next day. I’m not the only one. If it were your choice, what type of work would keep you up at night (in a good way).
3. What energizes your emotional batteries?
We are all wired a certain way. There are certain things that re-fuel our batteries. Many working professionals are burned out with their work because they do not have a clue as to what type of activities re-fuel their batteries.
Some of us are fueled when we are around people. If we spend too much time alone, we can become depressed and drained. Others of us are drained with too much people interaction. We need some time alone to get our batteries recharged. Having space to think, write or read is what we need most. What energizes your emotional batteries?
4.Where does your genius meet the needs of the world?
Your core genius is hidden to you. Since you live in your own skin, you often miss what it is that you do best. You mistakenly believe that what comes easy to you comes easy to everyone else. That is just not the case.
You have talents that when combined with the world’s needs make a powerful combination. It’s the place where magic happens. You do what you do best and you meet the deep needs of others. What are your top talents? How can they meet the needs that others have?
You are energized by the energy of others.
The people we surround ourselves with greatly influence our growth and success.
Although unavoidable, negative interactions can derail you – even stunt your progress – if you don’t know how to handle it.
And, there’s a HUGE difference in receiving feedback from a generally positive person who makes meaningful contributions to the culture and people around him or her, and receiving feedback from a truly negative person.
Negative comments from a positive person can almost always be helpful. Negative comments from a negative person is designed to tear you down.
The key is to differentiate between the two. Here are 5 Questions to determine someone’s impact on you:
- Is optimism or negativity part of a pattern?
The criticism you’re dealing with is either ‘in character’ for them or ‘out of character.’
If it’s in character, then they are negative about many things in life. You just happen to be one part of the whole.
If it’s truly out of character (and they are generally a positive person), its time to listen.
- Do they Pass the Caller ID test?
As subjective as this sounds, the call display test is a pretty good indicator of whether a person drains you or energizes you. When you see anyone’s name come up on your caller ID, you get an immediate emotional reaction to it.
Sometimes you’re thrilled to see the name and can’t wait to take the call. Other times you’re neutral. But sometimes you wince. Whether it’s a phone call, a text or an email, you respond negatively and quietly think “oh no.”
That’s a sign that the person’s overall influence in your life has been negative, not positive.
- Are they “for” something, or just “against” something?
Sadly, negative people rarely know what they stand for; they only know what they stand against.
If the person you’re dealing with isn’t “for” anything positive, they likely have a negative worldview
- Are Compliments sincere, or are they followed by the word “but”?
A positive person (and even a neutral person for that matter) can give a compliment. Negative people can’t.
What starts out positively (“I really enjoyed the event today”) is inevitably followed by a “but” (“but had they turned the volume down and shortened the message it would have been better.”)
People who can’t give a compliment are rarely the kind of people you build the future on.
- Do they Add value or Extract value in relationships?
Negative people rarely give themselves to something that benefit others.
Because they are against so much, few people want to work with them. Stalled out careers, a history of frequent job changes, financial trouble and other similar markers often characterize negative people.
Honor the humanity in everyone. But you don’t have to hang around everyone.
Scientists did a study to determine what the most depressing hour of the week was for Americans.
Can you guess what it was?
Sunday at Noon.
Because that’s when Monday lands on your shoulders. Sunday afternoon is when the reality of Monday sets in. The weekend is over. The freedom of a day or two off is done. The break is complete.
And in the shadows, Monday waits. It lurks there as the hours of Sunday tick by, ready for you. It’s not alone either, no, it brought a friend. Who?
The job you don’t love.
And you don’t have to hate your job to dread Sunday. Your boss doesn’t have to be horrible.You might even like your job some days, but the true test is on Sunday.
Is that feeling creeping in?
Maybe it’s not for you, but maybe your spouse is feeling it. Sometimes I felt like a “Sunday Jerk” because on Saturday I was carefree but on Sunday I could feel Monday weighing on me like a ton of bricks.
Maybe you see something in your spouse that you wish he or she saw too.
I know that feeling because I lived it for years and didn’t understand why. However, after encountering a few “Necessary Endings” professionally, those experiences shifted me from ‘Sunday Dread’ to ‘Sunday PEACE’.
I learned I didn’t have to dread Sunday and I don’t want you to dread it either.
If you resonate with these thoughts, here’s why: You’ve told yourself a thousand reasons why this Sunday will be different or this year will be the year you write a book, start a business or get in shape.
But the big change is your career. You invest at least 40+ hours a week, and if you’re dreading going back each week – it’s time for you to discover:
1.) What you’re really Passionate about,
2.) What Talents and Skills you have, and
3.) How those two pieces can come together to bring purpose, excitement and destiny to your life.
I’ve encountered hundreds of people just like you who swear they’ll never regret another Sunday again. I hope you’ll join them.
People who make a real difference lead out of Influence, not Title.
And that person can be you.
Ever wish to really add value to others? Have more friends than you know what to do with?
It’s part of our make up to want acceptance and approval from our piers.
However, few ever fully understand the real things that make us attractive to others. This is absolutely vital as we seek to be gain influence in the lives of those around us.
Artie Davis defined the term “Craveable Leader” and shares several habits that actually make people “crave” to be around you:
- Listen to others’ ideas.
Nobody likes a “know it all.” So get over your own ideas, and actually become interested in someone else’s ideas. We all like to talk about ourselves and what we think. So, when we find a person who cares what we think, Bam! We love to be with them!
- Speak only good things about others.
Let me tell you a little secret. If you think talking about others, just the things, “you heard” is going to win you juicy friends, you are in for a world of hurt!
If you talk negatively about someone else around someone, they are going to ask themselves, “what are they saying about me?” Gossip will ruin your reputation and sabotage trust in a friendship, don’t go there!
- Give generously when you can.
Nobody likes a “mooch!” Don’t develop a reputation as the “cheap-o” of the group. There is a Proverb that says “everyone is a friend to him who gives gifts.”
Generosity makes people feel valued, and not used! So always pick-up one or two more checks, bring something to dinner. Be the one everyone knows will be generous. Not an issue of amount, but rather attitude!
- Initiate with others.
If you are sitting by the phone, waiting for the invitation.. you are in for a long wait! Get over yourself and make the contact. I know it is hard, always feeling you have to make the first move, but that’s just the way it is.
People feel appreciated and valued when we make the first move, but don’t keep score! Just always make the move. Done!
- Authenticity is irreplaceable!
Don’t put on a mask. Don’t try and be several different people around different groups. You will always be found out! Be yourself. Trust who God made you to be.
If they don’t like you, you don’t need them. Find, initiate and love those who love you for you! They are the only ones that will be there when you need a true friend!
These are some things I have noticed that make me attracted to others, even makes them “craveable.” As I reflect on areas where I am growing as a leader, I keep coming back to a few seemingly basic –yet foundational habits.
These are things I am still very much learning, so I don’t pretend mastery. Any others you have noticed?
I love the word “Grit.”
Sure, there are other words we can use: perseverance, determination, passion, etc.
But Grit seems to embody all of these….and more.
I am reading a new book by Angela Duckworth (a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) titled — you got it — Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Here’s the Bid Idea: Talent is one thing; what you do with it is another.
We admire “naturals” – people we think have succeeded because of their innate ability. But as much as talent counts, effort counts twice.
Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals—and it is what turns talent into skill, and skill into achievement.
Angela studied GRIT in all sorts of settings, from West Point to the National Spelling Bee, in urban high school students, sales representatives, and professional athletes — and we know that it’s not so much of environment as it is values.
She goes to say “Every one of us is ambitious. We want to be our best selves. We want to be proud of what we’ve accomplished. We want to solve problems and help people. Too often, we don’t realize those ambitions because we don’t finish what we start. I believe that by emulating the beliefs and habits of exemplars of grit—I call them grit paragons—we can cultivate our own passion and perseverance.”
So true for all of us leaders and achievers.
And, a nugget for parents and influencers of young leaders: Instilling Grit in the next generation is about being both supportive and demanding. (Because being supportive without high standards is too permissive. Being demanding without offering support is too authoritarian).
Stay Focused. Determine to Get Up if you’re knocked down. Success is always a marathon, not a sprint.