A Coaching Approach – Champion Your Staff to Better Performance

One way to improve the performance of your team or staff is to pursue mastery in using coaching skills. Managers that do this skillfully will improve the performance of their team. There are many proficiencies and deliverables to master as a coach, and one of these proficiencies is championing. You should champion your staff early and often.

What exactly is championing?  Championing is a form of support that can be comprised of many things including the following:

  • acknowledgement of an achievement
  • acknowledgement of a breakthrough
  • acknowledgement of a success
  • encouragement
  • support
  • inspiration

You can champion actions, progress, dreams, traits, commitments, talents, gifts and qualities. When you champion someone, you are championing something that has already occurred. A memory aid is that championing requires a champion. A champion is someone who has already excelled, accomplished something or succeeded at something.

Championing is Not Cheer Leading

Performance Support Partners - Cheerleading is not championing

Championing is distinctly different from cheer leading. Understanding the difference can help you become a more masterful coach. There is nothing wrong with cheer leading; it is just that championing supports someone at a much higher level than cheer leading.  Cheer leading implies firing someone upwhen their energy or capacity is low.  When you are cheer leading, the emphasis is on leading. Leading means taking someone who isn’t there yet to someplace different. Masterful coaching is not about leading.

Thomas Leonard, the father of coaching, stated “the more often and deeply the coach champions their client at all levels (including their actions, progress, dreams, traits, commitments, gifts and qualities), the more encouraged the client feels and the more likely they are to succeed. For the coach to merely be encouraging is not enough; there is a much higher level of support generated when the coach operates at the championing level…”

When you can help the person see for themselves and acknowledge their own achievements as they define them, you are championing. The coach is the catalyst that helps the person internally reference for themselves what they have accomplished. By championing someone you get them to connect to the strength inside of them that allowed them to get to where they are. The coach can point out the shifts they have made and help them to make the connection to how it has evolved them.   Coaching, as a whole, always has an eye toward personal evolution.

Let’s take a look at some examples of championing.

Scenario 1: Accomplishment of a Certification

Employee:  “I just completed my certification in XYZ. It has been a long hard journey because I have had a lot of interruptions in completing my education especially with the death of my father. Also, along the way I was married and my first two children were born.”

Coach/Manager: “I am curious, is it the certification itself that you are most proud of?  Or is it more the tenacity to stick with it despite all of the events and obstacles along the way that could have stopped you?”

Note the Coach/Manager didn’t just congratulate him on the certification. This is where most people start and stop. When the employee mentioned the ‘long hard journey’ and ‘lot of interruptions’ and other challenges, the  Coach/Manager digs deeper to get what the employee is really most proud of as she defines it.

Employee:  “I am really proud of sticking with it. Not everyone would be able to keep coming back after all the things I have experienced that might have stopped me. But I did it. I finished!”

Coach/Manager: “I admire your courage and your tenacity. Not everyone would be able to keep moving forward despite all of the hurdles that appeared in your path.  It is inspiring. Congratulations.”

The coach champions more the person and less the accomplishment of the certification. The path of development to get to the accomplishment itself is more important. In this case the coach is championing the character traits that the employee is most proud of – the tenacity or “stick with it-ness.”

Scenario 2: Championing a Profound ‘Ah-ha’ Moment

Employee:  “I had been delivering training classes once a week for about 8 months.  For one particular student, I was having trouble getting what it was that she wasn’t understanding, but I kept listening. It is so challenging with so many learning styles. I finally ‘got it’ – what the puzzle pieces were that were missing and why she wasn’t connecting them together causing her gap in understanding. I observed how other more experienced teachers did this naturally. It was in that moment, I finally felt like I was successful in truly developing my teaching skills.”

Coach/Manager: “What does it mean to you to have that gift of understanding the learning gap?”

She listed. She diagnosed. She was excited that she could do something and figure it out on her own. The coach is paraphrasing in her own words what she heard and wants to run it by her to see if there is a better way to phrase it.

Employee: “It means that I really can teach and I can help my students really progress forward!”

Coach/Manager:  “There seems to be a moment in every teacher’s experience where they realize that all they have been trained to do, all the experience they have had, is finally coming together. They get it. Teaching is happening at the level you have always wanted it to happen. Is that what is happening for you?”

Employee:  “Yes, it finally is!  I really feel like a professional now!”

Coach/Manager:  “Congratulations!”

A coach looks for the greater truth or a reference point that the client goes through; it is the greater scheme of life. The coach doesn’t just say, “I see this.”  There is a point in every client’s development where the light bulb turns on and they see they can really do it and feel how powerful it is. This point is the total understanding or ‘ah ha’ moment where they now fit in the evolution of themselves as a person pursuing mastery. The masterful coach tells the client WHY it was evolutionary for them.

Do

  • Performance Support Partners - Champion Early and Often

    Be curious. Ask them. Your goal is to get them to champion for themselves, so before you tell them how great you think they are, ask them what they are proud of about XYZ or how it represents a significant shift to them. People need a lot of room to articulate why they are so proud of themselves. It may be the first time they have ever articulated this. Not because you have to know, but because you want themto know.

  • Be sincere. Anyone can tell when you don’t really mean something, or if it just puffery. Championing can be very quiet, especially compared to cheer leading.
  • Be excited about their progress. It is disappointing when the client is really excited, and you say something under-whelming like ‘that is nice.’ Match their tone.
  • Point to the underlying shifts or growth. Lock it into place by pointing out the fundamental improvements they have made, the long term meaning, and the evolution that occurred.
  • Be awed by their willingness. That we are willing to try at all shows courage.
  • Champion at all levels.  Don’t just focus on what they actually did or did not do. Include their dreams, traits, commitments, follow-through, qualities, service to others, feelings, insights, and profound moments, as well as their actions and progress.

Almost all of the work in championing is done by the coachee. We want them to figure it out for themselves. If they can’t, you can help them figure it out. Value is still being generated even if you do nothing – if you set it up properly.

Don’t

  • Don’t self reference. “That is great; I earned that certification last year.”  Self referencing diminishes any accomplishment.
  • Don’t champion, and then immediately tell them to do more or ask what is next. It diminishes their accomplishment. Let them revel in it awhile.

Another way to understand championing is to look at the results (got certified, got nominated, won an award, etc.) as the layered bricks. Championing is the mortar around the bricks that locks in place and reinforces the results turning it into an accomplishment. So, rather than being a pile of bricks on the ground, it becomes a well-built pedestal for them to stand on.

Benefits of Championing

Why champion?  Championing someone causes a shift from doubting, and feeling disconnected, to feeling energized, integrated and confident. You create a greater awareness in the person of their own strengths, talents and capabilities. Greater awareness leads to better decisions and performance. The more you use championing, the more your staff will use it too.

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Want to go from stressed out to streamlined?  Wishing you could spend more time actually doing the work you love?  Mia Turpel’s know-how as a business and career coach, speaker, project manager and trainer will help you do just that. Discover how to find Your Best Work in the Your Best Work, Find It, Love it, Live It telecourse. Want to know more about championing? Need coaching training?  Contact Coach Mia Turpel.

Is Your Office a Monkey-Free Zone?

Is your office a monkey-free zone?

Performance Support Partners - Monkey Free Zone

“What?” you say.  Let me explain.  If I didn’t laugh, I would cry over some of the stories I have heard about experiences in the corporate world.  It amazes me that so many managers go down the wrong path in trying to motivate their employees to behave differently.

My friend relayed a story about how his office decided that there was too much negativity in the work place and they needed to do something about it.  Negativity can be contagious, and eliminating workplace negativity would be a positive thing.

Their strategy was to create a rule that if an employee said something negative, they would have to keep a monkey (a children’s stuffed animal) at your desk at all times.  The only way you could get rid of the monkey was to wait to hear someone else saying something negative and then give the monkey to them.

I am sure that the intent was to motivate people to be more positive and create more awareness around when employees were being perceived as speaking negatively. And, I am sure this was meant to be funny.  However, treating adults like children never brings out the best in them.  And making them keep a monkey at their desk is akin to making them wear a dunce hat and sit in a corner. It is bully-like behavior and its purpose is to shame.  Shame creates bad feelings. Bad feelings shut down creativity, dampen morale and it shuts down higher order thinking skills (HOTS) which is possibly a much worse consequence than ‘negative’ talk.

One consequence at his workplace was it created what can be facetiously called themonkey effectIt caused a lack of trust and a hesitation to speak openly about issues that could be perceived as negative.  When prodded for more information, they began to ask “is this a monkey-free zone?” before being willing to provide input. In meetings to solve problems where it is important to discuss challenges that need addressed, staff were hesitant to discuss their thoughts and opinions for fear of it being perceived as ‘negative’ talk.  They didn’t want to be shamed with the monkey.

So, I ask, is your office a monkey-free zone?

What can you do about negativity in the workplace? While there is a long list of things we could talk about, let’s start with the most easily identifiable form which is a complaint.  Instead of putting up a sign with a red circle around the word complaints, here are some tips to turn a negative into something more positive, by making someone feel heard, feel empowered and possibly even create positive change.

Listen to complaints with a mindset that there is valuable information in the complaint.

Victim language is a pattern in language which usually indicates that the person feelspowerless to make a change.  Complaints are a form of victim language. (Now that you know this, you are going to complain less, now aren’t you?!) This sounds like a bad thing, but there are a lot of benefits and valuable information that can be obtained from listening to complaints.

What are some of the benefits and valuable information you gain from complaints?

 Complaints shine a light on something that can be fixed or streamlined to be made better, improving the work environment and possibly morale.

  • If one person complains, chances are that there are 10 other people that have the same complaint that won’t speak up.  Instead, they will silently withdraw or leave.  Listening to the one person that is willing to speak up gives you the opportunity to take action early.
  • A complaint tells you what the person is committed to or what the person values.  For example, if they are complaining about something that is inefficient and ineffective, you know that they are committed to or value something that is most likely opposite of their complaint – a work environment that is efficient and effective.  They may not even be aware that they have these values.  It may be unconscious. It gives you an opportunity to understand them better and to acknowledge the values that you are observing to build a better relationship.  The more awareness someone has about themselves, the better decisions they tend to make.

Guideposts for listening to complaints

Here are a few guideposts to using your advanced communication skills to make the person feel heard and understood, find the value in the complaint, and give them a path to feeling empowered again.

  1. Listen to the complaint with non judgmental awareness.  What is non judgmental awareness? This means that your tone remains charge-neutral, you do not judge, you do not try to ‘fix’ anything but stay curious and explore further if you want more details. The ability of the mind to observe without adding layers of bias, criticism and unnecessary analysis make the awareness non-judgmental.  An example might be watching a leaf drop from a tree in the autumn season. You don’t know where it is going to float to next and you just observe its motion floating and swirling naturally in the air.  There are no projections of what will happen in the future because you are only observing what is happening now and nothing else.
  2. Confirm your understanding. If they said, “I should have gotten a better raise.”  Confirm your understanding of what they said.  For example, you might say “I hear your frustration.  You feel you should have gotten a better raise.”
  3. Ask if they are just venting, or do they want your help? This is a clarifying question that helps bring awareness to both of you as to whether they just needed an understanding ear to hear them out, or if they really want some help from you.  Because if they are just venting, the worst thing you can do is to try to fix or solve the problem.  They are not engaging you to solve the problem, they just want to vent.  They may not even be aware of this themselves.  If they confirm that they are just venting, you might say, “Okay, I want you to vent another two minutes to get it out of your system, but then we move on to happier and fun things. Agreed?”  This brings awareness to them that you want to be there for them to vent, but not forever.
  4. If they aren’t venting and want help, ask yourself, “What are they committed to?” or “What do they value?” This is usually something opposite of what the complaint is about.  Once you understand what they are committed to or value, acknowledge that by stating it to them. This is a powerful technique to make a person feel heard and understood. It also helps you to uncover the positive intent of a complaint.  For example, you might say, “It sounds like you are committed to good wages” or “It sounds like you value good wages.”  They may not even be consciously aware that this is a value they hold in themselves, until you state it.  Hearing it from you may be very eye opening.
  5. Ask an open ended question that empowers and challenges them to make a change. This must be asked with non judgmental awareness as described above in a charge-neutral tone.  Avoid yes or no closed ended questions.  You might ask, “What do you think is your next best step to earning more money?”  Or, “What do you think you would like to do about it?” This step helps move the person out of powerlessness into a sense of empowerment into the possibility of taking an action to initiate a change.

Examples:

How do you listen to complaints - Performance Support Partners

Employee: “We have too many meetings.”
You: “You feel we have too many meetings.”
Employee: “Yes. They are a waste of time.”
You: “Can I clarify – are you just venting?  Or do you want me to brainstorm about it with you?”
Employee: “Good question.  I hadn’t thought about that.  I think I really want to brainstorm ways to improve it.  For one, thing I think they could be made so much more productive if we had an agenda.”
You: “I know you are committed to making productive use of meeting time”.
Employee: “Yes, it would be beneficial to everyone.”
You: “What do you think are some things you could do to make them more productive in addition to an agenda?”

Employee: “My boss micromanages me.”
You: “You feel that you are micromanaged”
Employee: “Yes. It drives me crazy, and I can’t do my best work that way.”
You: “I can tell that is frustrates you.  Can I clarify – are you just venting?  Or do you want to talk about how you might address it with your boss?”
Employee: “I have no idea how to address it.”
You: “I know you are committed to doing your best work and you need more autonomy to do it.  What do you think would help you most in addressing it with your boss?”
Employee: “I just don’t know how to bring it up or what to say.”
You: “Would you like to set aside some time to brainstorm things to say and ways to bring it up in a way that is productive?”
Employee: Yes, that would be great.  I would like that very much.

There are many things to look at when addressing negativity in the workplace.  However, please do make it a monkey-free zone. By shifting your mindset from a complaint is something negative to a complaint is an opportunity to streamline your work environment, gain valuable information and encourage action or change is an excellent start.  Using these techniques will make a person feel heard, model a way to communicate when listening to a complaint, as well as support them in moving out of feeling powerless and into feeling empowered to make a change.

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Want to go from stressed out to streamlined?  Wishing you could spend more time actually doing the work you love?  Mia Turpel’s know-how as a business and career coach, speaker, project manager and trainer will help you do just that.  Discover how to find Your Best Work in the Your Best Work, Find It, Love it, Live It telecourse.  Want to chat with Coach Mia?  Contact Coach Mia.

Don’t Respond to Feedback Like a Bunch of Baboons

I was just reading “See New Now” by Jerry de Jaager and Jim Ericson.  They have a chapter entitled The “Baboon Reflex.”  The subtitle is “Fear makes animals and people do unproductive things.” They go on to recount a story about baboon behavior, how something happens in their brain when they are hunting together, and somehow one of them always screws up the hunt.

Now, I know you have never worked with a bunch of baboons that screw up like this, right?  (Oh…Maybe?)  Fear, worry and bad feelings shut down our HOTS (higher order thinking skills). It shuts down creativity too. This is why you always have a great comeback three hours later – after you have had time to calm down and get to a good-feeling place again where your HOTS are intact.

What does this have to do with responding to feedback?

I’m convinced that responding to solicited feedback is an advanced communication skill.  I say advanced because it seems to be lacking in the basic skill set of many managers and leaders.  Lacking advanced communication skills can hamper great results, and can contribute to employee turnover.

In the book “First Break All the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham, he states that people joingreat companies but leave bad managers.  One of the many qualities of good managers is that they create an environment that keeps everyone using their HOTS.  They foster a safe environment where making mistakes is considered a part of learning and innovating. They make it clear it is okay to disagree and encourage discussions on differing viewpoints. They LISTEN.  They create trust because it is a SAFE environment for employees to provide feedback.

How do you become a manager that fosters an environment where your employees are in the HOTS most of the time?  There are so many ways and more blog articles to come.  But let’s start with something simple.  When you ask for feedback, make it safe for employees to give feedback.

In one experience I had, a manager e-mailed the department asking them, “How do you create an environment that fosters creativity and feedback?”   I didn’t know the manager very well, so I sent some simple ideas that would help create a safe environment.  He almost immediately responded with a critique, “that is too simplistic.”

The irony here is this: He wants to create an environment that fosters creativity and feedback, and he just guaranteed he would receive no more from me.  Why? His response taught me that if I provide feedback, he would immediately critique it.  I decided that next time he asks for feedback, I will pass.

If you solicit feedback, here are some tips on responding to feedback, so as to encourage a safe environment to receive it again.

  1. Think of feedback like receiving a gift. Like any gift, you don’t accept the gift andhsay, “this sucks.”  Can you imagine howyou would feel?  If you ask for feedback, giving it is usually optional, isn’t it?  Begin by considering feedback a gift.  When you receive a gift, you don’t tell the gifter, “this sucks because… (whatever).”   When you criticize solicited feedback that is exactly what you are doing.
  2. Respond with “thank you.”  Nobody has to give feedback.  In fact, it is easier just toRespond to Feedback With Thank You

    ignore a request for feedback.  It is less work.  But when someone does take the time to provide feedback, just like a gift, a proper response is “thank you.”  Or, “thank you for the feedback.”  Or, “I appreciate you taking the time to provide feedback.”  You get the idea.

  3. Stay curious.  Perhaps the feedback wasn’t exactly the type of feedback you were looking for.  Stay curious.  Respond with, “Thank you for your feedback.  Would you mind expanding on that and telling me a little more?  Navigating via curiosity is a coaching proficiency that brings great results.
  4. Use non-judgmental awareness.  This means that you remain charge-neutral, do not judge, don’t not try to ‘fix’ but stay curious and explore further if you want more. The ability of the mind to observe without adding layers of bias, criticism and unnecessary analysis make the awareness non-judgmental.  An example might be of watching a fish swim in an aquarium. You don’t know where it is going to swim to next and you just simply observe its motion flowing effortlessly through the water.  There are no projections of what will happen in the future because you are only observing what is happening now and nothing else.
  5. Avoid defending.  There is nothing worse than providing solicited feedback and then listening to the manager give a defense monologue.  It might start something like, “We have this because…” or “We do this because…” If you want to make a person feel unheard and unvalued, this is the way to do it. It virtually guarantees they will choose not to provide feedback again.  Create a safe space by making them feel heard by simply thanking them for the feedback.
  6. Confirm what you heard. Be sure you understand them correctly.  If a person is providing feedback about why something isn’t working for them, respond with “Just to confirm my understanding, the system does this when you try to _____________.”

Thinking of feedback like a gift, and thanking a person for their solicited feedback will contribute to creating a safe environment to provide more in the future. Stay curious and use non-judgmental awareness.  Do not defend anything when receiving feedback, but make sure you understand and confirm what was said.  Keeping these things in mind creates an environment where people can stay in their HOTS, where the gift of feedback can be fostered and used for developing continuous positive change, trust and innovation.

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Want to go from stressed out to streamlined?  Wishing you could spend more time actually doing the work you love?  Mia Turpel’s know-how as a business and career coach, speaker, project manager and trainer will help you do just that.  Discover how to find Your Best Work in the Your Best Work, Find It, Live It, Love it Telecourse.