Are You Coachable?

In my consulting and coaching business, I often ask potential clients the question “are you coachable?”

It is amazing how many times the prospect says “well, yes I believe I am.” After a few sessions with input and feedback, it becomes apparent they really are not coachable.

How do I know? It manifests itself in many ways.

The Athlete’s Edge

To find good examples of being coachable we can look directly at athletics where the concept of coach and student are most notable.

When you explore the story of the truly great athletes (think Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant), you will find stories of tireless pursuit of perfection. Regardless of the season they just had, these guys worked relentlessly to improve their stamina, skills, and techniques.

Jerry Rice, football great and now, NFL Hall of Famer was being interviewed. He was on the driving range at a celebrity golf outing. Rather than merely slap some golf balls around, he was on the range with both his caddy and a coach. When shots were not going the right place he was asking for guidance and advice.

Golf isn’t even his game, yet the discipline of looking to perfect a skill was at work. His desire to do well at whatever endeavor was before him drove his will to be better. That’s being coachable.

The Test

Here are a few thoughts about deciding if you are truly coachable.

First, do you routinely seek advice and counsel to improve some aspect of your professional or personal life? Or have you learned it all and know it all?

Next, when you get advice do you act on it, following through with using the information to achieve more? Or do you discount the information and talk yourself out of action?

Lastly, do you seek follow-up from the coaching source to be sure you understood the coaching and that you are properly performing the actions that were recommended? Or do you move on without ever doubling back for refining advice?

If your current professional or personal situation is not producing the results you expect, then perhaps some coaching is needed. But before you simply engage a coach, ask yourself whether you are truly coachable.

Do You Work with Toxic People?

A long-time associate, Marsha Petrie Sue, has made a professional speaking career talking about “toxic people”. I love that term. Marsha has even written a couple of books on the topic, chief of which is “Decontaminate Toxic People without Using Weapons or Duct Tape”. I love that title, and the book is spot on. Marsha and I are going to be doing a podcast in the next several days. Stay tuned for this wild and entertaining discussion.Toxic People

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Impact Planning


Do you have a personal priority plan? I am not talking about just setting goals. Do you have a way to know that the things for which you are spending time are fitting into a master plan? Look at the graphic above here. This is a classic way to orient your thinking on this topic. High effort and high impact things usually always get classified as “major projects”. Not only do they require that high effort and high impact FROM you, but, more importantly, they represent high value to the world AROUND you.

Don’t Swallow the Crunchy Stuff

During a trip to the dentist for some work on a crown, I was sitting comfortably in the chair. As my dentist got to work, she said “OK, I am going to start now; don’t swallow the crunchy stuff”. It occurs to me this could be good advice when confronted with challenging and perhaps even adversarial people. As a dialogue develops, things can escalate. Feelings can get hurt. It is often easy to get away from the issues at hand and, instead, get worked up over the personal violation we feel.

I suggest to you “don’t swallow the crunchy stuff”. Do not accept threats, name calling, and other trigger words that can set off bad feelings. Stay focused on the task or matter at hand. Do not let another person suck you into a battle of words over ideas or comments that should not be in the discussion.

Chasing Your Tail?

Remember watching a cat or dog chase their tail? The real question is when was the last time someone watched you chasing your tail? As I reflect on various chapters of my life and as I hear friends and colleagues share various experiences, it strikes me that we are just a guilty as our feline and canine friends of chasing that darn tail. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

  1. If you are not certain you have been chasing your tail, look at the size of the circle. The tight crazy spirals are easy to detect. It does not take long in the loop to recognize you are, in fact, running in circles. It feels fast, definitely frenzied, and dizzying. So it becomes easy to declare the insanity and stop the cycle. The tougher challenge is those large, slow, looping circles that may actually seem like graceful glides through the situation you are in. If you return to the same place and outcome, you have been chasing your tail.
  2. Old animals don’t chase their tail. As funny as it may sound, seldom in the animal kingdom will we see an older, wiser creature chasing his tail. That is with one exception….homo sapiens. Yes, the human race is not immune to repeating old habits regardless of age. The truth is, we never really stop chasing our tail in one area or another until we fully agree to truly learn from that experience. Input from trusted friends and loving family can certainly help, but each of us must come to the complete understanding of the forces that drive us into the temptation to chase that beautiful bushy tail.
  3. It’s not wise to stick your hand into the middle someone else’s circle while they are running at full speed. I did that once when one of my cats was so engrossed in chasing his tail that he seemed to have forgotten all other things. What I did not know was that the cat was intent on biting the catch as hard as he could when he found it. My hand substituted for the catch. Wow, that hurt. Yes, I stopped the cat and saved him from probable sickness, but I paid a big price. As noble as trying to stop someone else’s frenzy may sound, there is a point at which outsiders must stay out of the way. It’s far easier to intercede and assist with helping someone stop a cycle in the early stages before the momentum builds.

Pro or Shmo?

Ok I admit it…I am a long-suffering Houston Texans football fan. Over the past two years, the Texans have found ways to be on the short end of a miraculous come-back finish of no less than 6 football games. Yes, 0-6 over those games. Missed field goals, dropped passes, fumbles, Hail Mary’s (by the other team), and last second heroics by the other team; you name it, the Texans have been the team these last second miracles are perpetrated against. So where am I going with this?

Well, all of these game losing disappointments bring into question the level at which these professionals perform their job. The eye-popping salaries and the endorsements etc. leave the common man with a jealous envy of sorts. Yet when you calculate a KPI for these guys, the rate versus return seems totally out of whack. Here are some examples:

  1. When a defensive lineman takes 20-30 plays in a game, yet records only 1 or 2 sacks on the opposing Quarterback, that is considered a GREAT game. Are you kidding me? One or two successes out of 20 or 30 tries? I’d be in the soup line.
  2. A defensive back that gives up not one, but two long pass plays in the same game, giving the opposing team scores on both plays, is deemed as having a tough day. Awe gee, if I lost two big sales to my competitor and did that for 16 weeks straight, again, soup kitchen time.
  3. A running back who fumbles the ball during the last drive as the clock runs down, giving away the game is said to have a bad break. If I let the board report I am writing get lost in my computer such that I cannot present it, I am told I have no job.

I could go on and on. Now, these are obvious, big deals. Here’s my question though. What about the day by day grind of showing up, doing the do, making it happen, getting it done? Do you give it 100% all the time? Or do you find a short cut? Maybe take a few extra minutes at the coffee bar or strolling back after lunch. Heck, what about taking off early? Or not coming in at all? No, your team needs you making every play all the time. We can forget about the examples we find in pro sports. We need to be about handling what we can control in the best way possible.

Find your best, be your best.

That Dreaded Follow-Up: Pest or Progress?

Here’s a great article I found on TheLadders. It covers most of the issues swirling around the dreaded “Follow-Up”. When, who, where, how.

Click Here

Courtesy of TheLadders

Help Helpers Help

Whether you are in career transition or just trying to advance your career, have you given your “helpers’ everything they need to know to help you? Keith Ferrazzi just published an article that talked about executives giving their admins the right tools to help grow and nurture the exec’s network. But I think that idea goes further.

What do you do to tell family, friends, and neighbors about the things you are doing in your career? I don’t mean the boring stuff that sounds like bragging. I mean the meaningful pieces that can help someone understand your personal brand; what you are and what you do. A friend once said

Even my neighbor’s 12 year old daughter knows something about what I am doing

Plumbers, painters, carpenters, doctors, dentists, etc. have it pretty easy right? But what about C++ programmers, or high temperature flow mechanics engineers, or senior debt managers, or even HR professionals? How do you go about breaking down the fancy titles and terminology into easy to understand and even easier to remember sound bites that can help others help you?

Here’s a test. Try telling your story in new ways to five people for the next week. Enforce it when you can. Then watch to see what may come from those contacts.

Oh Gosh! Not Another Networking Event…

The interpersonal skill set is one of the most valuable assets to carry with you during job search, yet many of us are conflicted by trying to engage a stranger. Why is that?

I see dozens of people every week who have trouble trying to successfully talk with someone who might just be their next great job lead resource. Does that mean this target person may HAVE that next job? No, but it means they may know someone that knows someone looking for just the right set of experiences and skills that you, the candidate, may have.

There are lots of great tools and tips about this thing we call networking. But let’s face it, people have been networking since before the Pilgrims had thanksgiving dinner with the Indians. The concept is about connecting with people around you in ways that facilitate good personal relationships. OK – we don’t always like new people we meet. I get that. But what about those we do meet where we walk away saying to ourselves “wow, they were great to talk to”?

Did you know that most of the time when someone makes that kind of impression on us, we did most of the talking and they did most of the listening?

So here’s the secret. As you find yourself in a “networking situation” try doing a little more listening and a lot less talking. Ask questions to prompt your discussion partner to do the speaking. Let them gracefully transition into asking you follow-up questions. Never feel like you have to somehow open up and dump your life story on a stranger so that you can get to the bottom line about needing a job. Let the dialogue flow a little more naturally.

For more help with career transition, visit www.askJMS.org

Through the Looking Glass

Recently I ran across an old article written by a local business writer for my city’s lead newspaper. The text was a challenge to people who were trying to make changes in their life either by career transition or by some other strategic move.

The question was “have you looked in the mirror lately?” I happen to like that thinking. I am a big fan of introspection and self-talk for overcoming challenges in life. So as I was being refreshed with this article it dawned on me that there is one big problem with that approach.

Again, do not forget I said I was a fan of introspection. However, here’s the rub. Too often when we allow ourselves these moments to “look in the mirror”, we find that the answers to our questions are very negative, perhaps even self-loathing responses. Perhaps they come from those infamous voices of our past like that third grade teacher, or the neighborhood bully, or even more sinister, from a parent who was less than model in our lives. As we try to recalibrate a moment in the present by doing a self-analysis, we should never fall victim to those bad voices that can cloud our vision in the mirror.

It is critically important that your time of reflection be tempered with a certain truth about those things that are your personality, psyche, and makeup. Watch out for being overly critical, yet try to find a center of truth. Sometimes we need a close friend (the kind that can get away with speaking the truth) or an objective outsider who is willing to help with thoughts and observations. Either way, the need to look into the mirror is a good practice.