What is COACHING Anyway?


Ask five people what coaching is and you’ll probably get six different definitions.  Just as there are many different ways to define coaching, there are different ways to provide and experience coaching.  All may be equally valid.  As it relates to the process of continuous improvement in human growth and achievement, coaching can be viewed as the process of receiving and using new information about oneself and/or one’s behaviors, for the purpose of changing unproductive behaviors in order to become either more effective, more satisfied, or both.

Since many of our behaviors have become ‘habit’, the role of a coach is often to identify the unconscious habits that we have that may not be serving us well.  These habits are typically somewhat rigid patterns of thought and behavior that once served to ensure our survival and well-being, but which are no longer needed, nor helpful to us.

Examples of unproductive habits might be engaging in a fight with someone when angry, “forgetting” our own needs or desires in the face of another’s, or eating, working, or turning on the TV when feeling empty, lonely or uncomfortable.  These habitual ways of interacting with ourselves and the world are quite common and, thus, quite normal.

Due to these unconscious habits and internalized patterns, however, there are places where we can’t look, can’t see, and can’t think clearly.  These are places where we, quite literally, “go unconscious.” In these unconscious places, our perceptions of ourselves, others and reality, can be quite distorted without our even knowing it.


With effective coaching, and a commitment to continuous personal improvement, we can become more aware of when and where we tend to go unconscious, start to realize how some of our habitualized patterns can actually stand in the way of “the next level” of our personal development.  We can transform these habitual patterns, or “blind spots,” and strengthen our ability to think and act clearly, increasing our effectiveness and satisfaction in our work, our relationships, our families, and our communities.


The Gift of Mentoring

Mentoring relationships allow wisdom to get passed on by creating a platform for two people to work together in ways that help career management, navigation of organizational politics and reaching one’s highest potential.  Mentoring can take place informally or as part of a formalized program.  Each mentoring situation is different, and the role of the mentor depends on the mentee and their goals. The kinds of roles mentors can play include:

  • Sponsoring – Opening doors and advocating for your mentee.   Creating opportunities for the mentee and connecting him/her with people in the mentor’s network.
  • Guiding and counseling – A mentor may serve as a confidant, sounding board, and personal advisor.  The mentor can help the mentee explore and understand emotional reactions or personal conflict or explore ways to deal with problems.  As counsel, the mentor is also in a position to warn the mentee about behavior that is a poor fit with the organizational culture or that is leading him/her into troublesome territory.
  • Teaching – Many mentors enjoy the teaching aspects of mentoring – transferring knowledge, sharing their experiences and recommending assignments.
  • Modeling – Just by observing their mentor, mentees “pick up” many things – ethics, values, and standards; style, beliefs and attitudes; methods and procedures.  Mentees are likely to follow the mentor’s lead, adapt the mentor’s approach to their style.
  • Motivating and inspiring – Mentors support, validate and encourage their mentees.  They help their mentees link their own goals, values and emotions to the larger organizational agenda to inspire higher levels of engagement and energy around their development.

The role of the Mentee

A mentoring relationship is a collaborative effort.  In addition to the leadership required of the mentor, the person being mentored has several key responsibilities, such as:


  • Honest and open, actively participating in letting the mentor get to know them.
  • Receptive to feedback and insight, proactive about seeking information and feedback from the mentor and others to identify development opportunities.
  • Eager to solicit concrete suggestions from the mentor, asking how to improve performance.
  • Able to follow through in pursuing goals, investing in learning and taking steps toward needed change.
  • Enthusiastic and excitedabout their career and about achieving personal goalsstock-photo-12630670-meeting-with-mature-business-woman.jpg

Handling Difficult Interactions

What Are Difficult Interactions?

You’re arguing with a peer about why he consistently shoots down your ideas. Two of your employees routinely attack each other verbally during meetings. Your boss often makes sarcastic remarks to you and other managers. Another business area keeps making unreasonable demands on your team.

These scenarios constitute difficult interactions. If we don’t deal with them, they may escalate to highly undesirable outcomes—strained relationships, wasted time, and declining performance.


Do You Avoid Dealing with Difficult Interactions?

You might avoid dealing with difficult interactions because certain barriers get in the way. The table below shows examples of these barriers and explains how to remove them so that you can more effectively manage difficult interactions.



Ways to Remove

Fear of interpersonal conflict Acknowledge that although conflict can be uncomfortable, it’s a fact of life. Focus on the positive outcomes of addressing conflict.
Failure to recognize that you have a problem with another person in the workplace Notice the quality of your workplace relationships. Ask which relationships seem tense, frustrating, or unproductive. Consider acknowledging that these relationships are hampered by difficult interactions.
The belief that a difficult interaction is the fault of others Acknowledge your role in the difficulty. Identify what you can do to improve the situation.
The conviction that other people won’t change even if you try to improve the situation Remind yourself that you’re not trying to change another person—rather, you want to alter the way the two of you interact. You can do that by changing your own behavior.
The belief that the problem will resolve itself Remind yourself that most problems don’t resolve themselves.

Despite the challenges inherent in dealing with difficult interactions, it’s essential to recognize situations that need addressing—and to manage them promptly and effectively. If you don’t, difficult interactions may escalate to a level that destroys workplace relationships and damages performance in your team or unit.

Improvement Is Possible

Managing difficult interactions requires hard work and practice. But you can master this important managerial responsibility. Though managing difficult interactions is challenging, the rewards are well worth the effort. When you learn how to deal with these situations:


  • Difficult conversations become easier to handle
  • You prevent these situations from escalating into crises
  • You engage in more productive dialogue
  • You feel greater freedom to take action in tough situations, as well as a stronger sense of self-respect
  • You strengthen your workplace relationships

Change Response and Versatility

“Change is the only constant.”

“We are navigating in permanent white water.”  You’ve heard all the clichés.  There is a basic element of truth behind these succinct and pithy sayings.  The magnitude, speed, and frequency of the changes we face today have increased dramatically over the last decade.  Global competitive forces, changing demands of customers, and emerging technologies are some of the reasons why.  If organizations cannot respond quickly to these business conditions, they will lose out to agile organizations that embrace change and adapt quickly.


Facts About Change

People both fear and seek change.  Change is a highly emotional process, often described by experts as a “psychological process”.  Research shows that 20% of people will be open to change while 80% will initially be resistant.  This is due to the fact that what is unfamiliar and unpredictable often creates apprehension, self-doubt and fear.

Change is certain…progress is not.

Navigating change involves resilience and agility. Many say that these two skills are the most critical skills necessary in the 21st century.


Resilience = The ability to bounce back, to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched.  The ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.


Agility =        The quality or state of being agile; marked by ready ability to move with quick, easily, and with grace.  Nimbleness; mentally quick and resourceful.


Personal Agility is the ability to be flexible and productive during times of change, and to expect and welcome change as an opportunity to improve oneself and the workplace.  Personal agility assumes resilience.


Organizational Agility is having the attitudes, processes, and energy to execute new business strategies quickly and effectively.  Organizational agility assumes the ability to maintain resilience, that is, to stay productive and move forward in times of change.


“When the rate of change outside the organization is faster than the rate of change

inside the organization, the end is near.”     – Jack Welch


Individual Change Response and Versatility

How does one demonstrate these abilities?  Here are a few examples from successful organizations:

  • Demonstrates ability to adapt to and initiate positive change
  • Takes on progressively more challenging and responsible assignments
  • Is innovative, creative and flexible




8 Tips for Successful Career Planning

Career planning is not just done in high school or college then left behind as we move forward in our jobs and careers.  It is an activity best done on a regular basis.  Career planning should be a rewarding and positive experience, providing goals to achieve in your current role or plans for transitioning to a new role.

Here are 8 tips to help you with your career planning.


1. Make Career Planning an Annual Event

By making career planning an annual event, you will feel more secure in your career choice and direction and you’ll be better prepared for the many uncertainties and difficulties that lie ahead in all of our jobs and career.


2. Reflect on Your Likes and Dislikes

Change is a fact of life; everybody changes, as do our likes and dislikes. Something we loved doing two years ago may not be fulfilling now.  Get clear about what motives and drives your sense of success and contribution.


3. Examine Your Pastimes and Hobbies

It may sound a bit odd, to examine non-work activities when doing career planning, but it’s not. Many times your hobbies and leisurely pursuits can give you great insight into future career paths.


4. Make Note of Your Past Accomplishments

One of the keys to job and career success is having a unique set of accomplishments, skills, and education that make you better than all others in your career.


5. Look Beyond Your Current Job for Transferable Skills

It’s better to categorize yourself in terms of skill sets than to base your career planning on your job titles.  Transferable skills such as writing, researching, investigating, juggling multiple tasks, meeting goals and deadlines, and managing time and information, are easily applied to a wide variety of jobs.


 6. Set Career and Job Goals

A major component of career planning is setting short-term (in the coming year) and long-term (beyond a year) career and job goals. Can you be successful in your career without setting goals? Of course. Can you be even more successful through goal-setting? Most research says yes.


7. Explore New Learning and Development Opportunities

Take the time to consider what types of learning experiences will help you achieve your career goals. Pinpoint those that will enhance your current job performance or prepare you for future roles.


8. Research Further Career/Job Advancement Opportunities
One of the really fun outcomes of career planning is picturing yourself in the future. Where will you be in a year? In five years? Envision various career paths, and develop scenarios for seeing one or more of these visions become reality.

What is Your Personal BRAND?


How are you perceived at work?  Are you famous for working well under pressure and bringing calm to difficult situations?  Are you known for your innovative, impactful ideas and for knowing how to bring others “on board”?  We are all drawn to reliable people who relieve stress and can be counted on to contribute positively to their own and others’ success.  So, how do you want to be perceived?

The opinion of your coworkers, your boss, and your customers/partners is reality in their eyes.  The impression you make is important.  You define who you are.  It doesn’t matter what you were like in high school, or in your last job, or even last week.  What matters is who you are now and how you position yourself for the future.  YOU create your personal “Brand”.


Brand You!

It may be that projecting a personal brand comes naturally to you.  If you are an enthusiastic and expressive person, your boss, colleagues, and friends probably know very well just what you’re about.  If, however, you are not as vocal about yourself, you might need to spend a little time identifying who you are and how you wish to be perceived.  These questions will help you determine that:

  • What are my most important values?
  • What are my greatest strengths?
  • How do I want to be perceived?
  • What am I known for?
  • What about myself do I want people to see that they may not?
  • What sort of feedback about myself and my work am I happiest to get?
  • How do my coworkers and supervisors view me?
  • What makes me unique?
  • What do I have to offer?
  • What kind of person do I want to be?


You don’t need a team of marketing experts to establish a great personal brand.  All you have to do is be who you are, stick to your values, and project those values out into the world.

Well-Aligned vs. Poorly Aligned Teams ***(See bottom of post – JL)***

A well-aligned team with clear ways of working together and expectations for each other resembles a fitted jig-saw puzzle. Members of a well-aligned team generally report that the team experience is “smooth”, “effective”, and that they are “working well together.”  For new team members, it is often fairly easy to adapt to this type of team due to the existing clarity.  New team members can begin contributing quickly because it is fairly obvious how they fit into the existing structure.

In contrast, this picture below shows a chaotic team with little alignment and resembles a scrambled jig-saw puzzle.



The team’s ways of working together are unclear and even the quality of communication between the existing members is in question.  Members of these types of teams rarely talk about the team and often experience a disconnected feeling in team meetings.  Because it is hard to see exactly how team members are working together, it is very difficult for a new person to join.  About all he/she can do is to pick an outside edge (anybody’s) and start there, trying to connect with everyone in due course while building a shape of their own to fit the odd structure already in place.

***Gay, I couldn’t get the pictures to paste onto this post, and I wasn’t sure where they came from to try and grab them.  Sorry!! – JL

Productive Business Dialogue

Productive business dialogues are conversations that are fact based, minimize defensiveness, and draw out the best thinking from everyone involved.  They are reflective of sharp critical thinking,  emotional intelligence, and a spirit of openness and collaboration.  What is they do is encourage collaboration and creativity and open up individual and organizational learning and innovation.  They require us to “know our stuff” and to take responsibility for truly understanding others’ thinking and point of view.


Emotional state or ‘frame of mind’ is crucial when it comes to engaging in productive business dialogue.  Think of the last time you were in dialogue with someone else and thought you were ‘right’.  Recall how, in this frame of mind, you were driven to influence others to your way of thinking – or getting them to realize what you ‘already know’. Dialogue is two way. Yet under these circumstances, it feels very one way. The whole point in having productive business conversations is to promote mutual learning; but you have to approach it with the right frame of mind.


Evaluating The Effectiveness Of Your Business Dialogue Skills

Take a few minutes to reflect after a meeting you really hoped to have a positive impact.  Put your ‘critic’s’ hat on and retrace your thinking steps Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What data did you come with?
  • Where you clear on what was important to focus on?
  • Did you focus on what is going well, rather than on what is wrong?
  • During the meeting, what filters did you put on (i.e. a negative one?)?
  • What assumptions and presuppositions did you make?
  • In the end, how well did you understand others’ thinking?
  • Was the outcome of high quality?

Once you have mastered your own thinking processes and understand your own conclusions and the patterns on which you base them, you are ready to share your thinking with others. (adapted from Chris Argyris)


How to maintain the right ‘frame of mind’ for productive conversations

  • See every conversation as an opportunity to learn and promote mutual learning
  • Assume you may be missing things others see, and seeing things others miss
  • Stay curious. Assume others are acting in ways that make sense to them

Five Success Factors for High Performance Teams

In today’s business environment, teams are often under pressure to produce more than just acceptable results.  A team that excels in certain positive practices can make the leap from acceptable performance to high performance.  These positive practices are grouped into five success factors.

Results     ~      Commitment       ~      Process      ~      Communication    ~   Trust


Success Factor(s)

Positive Practice(s)


  • Clear, important, accepted statement of purpose
  • Understood and accepted short- and long-term team goals
  • Regular reviews and discussion of team results



  • Understood and accepted ground rules for working together
  • Regular, open discussion of individual team members’ contributions
  • Shared belief in benefits of being on the team



  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Methods to evaluate effectiveness of processes
  • Agreed upon actions and deadlines



  • Direct, open, clear
  • Equal opportunity to participate and offer opinions
  • Accepted ground rules for resolving conflict



  • Mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities
  • Commitments and promises kept
  • Willingness to share thoughts, feelings, and rationale


Business Acumen and Value Creation Process

Although there is a lack of consensus on an exact definition, Wikipedia defines business acumen as “a concept pertaining to a person’s knowledge and ability to make profitable business decisions.”  Employees with high levels of business acumen are highly prized by corporate leaders since such employees’ judgments and contributions add bottom line value.



Value Creation Process

True value creators bring together their IQ (industry knowledge, expertise and intellectual horsepower) and their EQ (ability to create and sustain relationships in which people share what they think and feel to be true).  This combination can be a powerful differentiator in the evaluation of one’s business acumen.  Value creators passionately and effectively focus their intent on helping the company/other succeed.  They create value objectively and subjectively – objectively in things that can be measured, and subjectively in terms of increasing feelings of good will.


IQ and EQ can, and often do, run in opposite directions – the smarter our IQ the lower our EQ.  If we get fixed on how smart we are or how good our ideas are, we tend not to listen, not to hear, and not to make space for our views to be challenged.  To turn intelligence into business acumen requires the ingredient of emotional intelligence (EQ).


When our intent is to help the company/other succeed, it frees us to be objective rather than pushing our ideas and solutions.  Whether responding to a request or initiating a conversation, value creators conduct a thorough value creation diagnosis before offering solutions.  The questions they ask of others, and of themselves, facilitate high quality interactions, precise evaluations, and creative,   effective solutions.



Taking our individual value creation to a higher level requires us to elevate the quality and effectiveness of our conversations.  Follow these tips to increase your emotional intelligence and  business acumen:

  1. Fight the urge to jump to solution-talk before understanding true business needs and desired outcomes.
  1. Use inquiry and listening to uncover issues, evidence that the issues exist, the impact they are having on the organization/company, and the desired results.
  1. Explore and uncover constraints – time, people, and money.  The number one reason decision-makers do not act on suggestions boils down to resource constraints.  Know the constraints that he/she is facing and add value through relieving them.


Present your solutions to the right people.  Be prepared to address what the decision-maker will need to see, hear and believe to be true in order to give a definitive answer.