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.
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.
The meeting had been going on for a few minutes, when a junior executive rushed in, late. The boss looked up and glared. The junior said “excuse me, I didn’t mean to disturb.”
The executive grinned and said, “No problem, I’ve been disturbed for quite some time.” There were uncomfortable chuckles.
What can you make from that? On one hand, there’s the obvious, which is a more literal interpretation. The boss admitting his deranged approach to people and life. Thus the chuckles and the squirms in the chairs.
I prefer to take another view to explain the statement; one which I favor a great deal. I like staying disturbed; in perpetual motion with a hunger for growth and advancement of new ideas.
I love being able to remain open to new ideas, fresh thoughts from sources you trust, or great books and programs.
Disturbed or Comfortable?
Being disturbed is the opposite of being comfortable. Comfort zones feel good for a while, but they prevent sustained growth and performance. The world around us doesn’t sit still. Why should we?
Fresh ideas make for growth. There is nothing worse in a leader than the attitude “this is the way we’ve always done it.” I actually hate that mindset.
The global markets today like to talk about disruptive ideas. Uber disrupted transportation. AirBnB disrupted hospitality. Amazon disrupted retail shopping. SO on and so on…
Disruption causes disturbing ripples wherever it goes. The status quo gets disturbed in a big way. Henry Ford has been quoted as saying “I had no interest in asking people what they wanted in transportation. They would have said faster horse.” Ford’s “Quadricycle” that later became the Model-T disrupted the horse and buggy era.
At approximately 4:00 a.m. on June 4, 1896, in the shed behind his home on Bagley Avenue in Detroit, Henry Ford unveils the “Quadricycle,” the first automobile he ever designed or drove.
Ford was working as the chief engineer for the main plant of the Edison Illuminating Company when he began working on the Quadricycle. On call at all hours to ensure that Detroit had electrical service 24 hours a day, Ford was able to use his flexible working schedule to experiment with his pet project–building a horseless carriage with a gasoline-powered engine. His obsession with the gasoline engine had begun when he saw an article on the subject in a November 1895 issue of American Machinistmagazine.
The following March, another Detroit engineer named Charles King took his own hand-built vehicle–made of wood, it had a four-cylinder engine and could travel up to five miles per hour–out for a ride, fueling Ford’s desire to build a lighter and faster gasoline-powered model.
As he would do throughout his career, Ford used his considerable powers of motivation and organization to get the job done, enlisting friends–including King–and assistants to help him bring his vision to life. After months of work and many setbacks, Ford was finally ready to test-drive his creation–basically a light metal frame fitted with four bicycle wheels and powered by a two-cylinder, four-horsepower gasoline engine–on the morning of June 4, 1896.
When Ford and James Bishop, his chief assistant, attempted to wheel the Quadricycle out of the shed, however, they discovered that it was too wide to fit through the door. To solve the problem, Ford took an axe to the brick wall of the shed, smashing it to make space for the vehicle to be rolled out.
With Bishop bicycling ahead to alert passing carriages and pedestrians, Ford drove the 500-pound Quadricycle down Detroit’s Grand River Avenue, circling around three major thoroughfares. The Quadricycle had two driving speeds, no reverse, no brakes, rudimentary steering ability and a doorbell button as a horn, and it could reach about 20 miles per hour, easily overpowering King’s invention.
Aside from one breakdown on Washington Boulevard due to a faulty spring, the drive was a success, and Ford was on his way to becoming one of the most formidable success stories in American business history.
That was total disruption of a period in history. There have been many more since.
As a leader, are you disturbed? Maybe you should be?
Tomorrow is July 4th. In the U.S. we call it Independence Day. It is a good time to reflect on the real meaning of deep, personal independence.
I love this picture showing the dawning of a new day. When we declare independence, there is a new day, a fresh beginning. Independence implies a freeing from something. The history of the United States declares a freedom from rulers who, at the time, were seen as oppressive, demanding laws without representation. Yet the quest for independence can be very personal and far more significant.
When any of us is impacted by a force that controls us, we need independence. The control can be a bad boss, an unethical company, a work environment that is oppressive and cruel. The control can be internal; like a mindset, substance abuse, limiting thoughts, or emotional scars from prior experiences.
As my pastor says, “There’s a story on every pew.” People all around us face challenges to release themselves from something.
And the list goes on . . .
Regardless of the force or factors from which you are claiming your independence, the stage is set for a new day. Facing the truths of who you are and what you believe can give rise to making a fresh new start.
Helping others overcome tough odds is a noble and honored effort. Countless numbers of good neighbors do that in communities large and small every day. Each victory is deserving of a celebration.
Yet, I think the toughest challenge most people face is driving change for themselves; overcoming those personal things that hold us back. Yes, joining a community or a tribe of like-minded souls who, themselves are trying to make a change, can be a big help. However, the ultimate change is up to you and you alone.
For those of you who, as I do, hold dear to a deep faith in God, we have Him to hold onto while we fight to claim our independence. He is an unending source of power and courage through the fight. Take a moment and reflect. Ask yourself these important questions.
[reminder]What is your fight today? Have you made progress to overcome your foe(s)? What strength will you choose?[/reminder]
Happy Independence Day! One day your fight will be won. Why not let this day be the first day of the rest of your new life!
Have you found yourself bogged down in the weeds? Does your life’s progress seem like a wash, rinse, repeat cycle?
If you answered yes to either of those questions, you are living life and managing your efforts in a maze. Here’s what maze managing means.
Imagine a big, even giant maze. You know, like the ones you saw in the grade school coloring books, where you tried to draw your way from start to finish. You followed a few paths only to learn that they were dead ends. You went back to the start and try new direction, but bump into another dead end.
You work countless combinations of turns and angles, possibly covering all corners of the maze, yet you never get to the finish. The bigger the maze, the harder it was to find the solution. If the lines were very small, it was even harder.
Life and business can be that way. When a new chapter of life starts or a new job is begun, you don’t see the end. You have to turn and twist your way, day by day, trying to achieve some level of success.
Hard work and dedicated effort can feel like you are making progress, but then as you make the next turn, you realize you’ve reached a dead end. Sadly, the result may come after years of work.
Managers and executives often find themselves giving in to life in the maze. All of the facts and forces around you say “walk the maze”. You start thinking that is the only way to get through to your goal.
The best leaders I have known acknowledge the maze, but find ways to rise above the grind of living in the maze. This is where and how having leadership vision becomes important. Leaders can see the way forward despite clear obstacles in the way. They don’t merely overpower the obstacle, but they design a plan to go over, around, or through the maze.
I like to think of this as leading out loud. When others around you give in to maze thinking, you have to get their attention. As a leader, you can provide inspiration about coming out of the maze and reaching the other side. You can steer the discussions, shape ideas, and be the guide, showing them the way out of the maze.
Here’s the Catch
You too can be subject to maze thinking; getting stuck in the maze. The repetition of working through things can wear you down. You can lose sight of your own vision. Clarity can turn to fog.
Leaders have to develop their own mechanism for fighting this kind of battle fatigue. Here are three ways I have found to be effective.
I love this word “re-calibration”. In a finely crafted mechanism, there are gears that can get out of sync from time to time. The constant turn of the wheels causes settings to loosen, alignment to shift, and sprockets to rattle. The whole system needs to get re-calibrated to reset the alignments, tighten the settings, and perhaps lubricate the gears.
Those of us in leadership need that too. We get rattled and thrown off our game. You have to allow yourself some time to re-calibrate. You may need to do this several times a year. I make it a daily habit to find a little quiet time to pause, reset, and refocus.
Re-calibration includes connecting with core values, reflection on who you intend to be, and honest analysis of your progress toward goals and priorities.
Ideas and methods can fade. The testing of time can cause an old idea to become irrelevant. You have to renew your thinking. Renewal also serves to keep us from getting stuck in a bull headed mindset.
If your trusted advisors have repeatedly encouraged you to change course, then maybe you need to change course. But you cannot do that objectively without your own period of renewal. Renewing your mind and heart can keep things fresh.
Enduring stress and pressure for extended periods of time requires recovery. Just like intense workouts at the gym require your body to recover, your mental and emotional faculties need recovery too. You have to afford yourself some time to recover from the pressure of being in leadership.
The science of recovery in our bodies gives us good examples of what can happen. See my prior post. Just like perpetual sessions at the gym actually become counter productive without rest, our leadership performance suffers too from the lack of recovery.
Get Above the Maze
Rather than struggling to live your life in a maze, leaders find ways to overcome the maze mentality. The first step is recognizing you have gotten stuck in the maze. As you go about performing your leadership duties, be mindful of the three disciplines I recommend for maximizing your resilience and effectiveness.
Here are my thoughts as we move into the celebration of the Thanksgiving season here in the U.S.
At thirty thousand feet, so many things seem so clear. The roads that wind across the landscape seem to make perfect connections with each and every stopping point. What could seem to be insurmountable obstacles in the road, like curves, hills and turns, merely melt away when seen from such an altitude. Though the obstacles remain, it becomes ever so clear what and where the paths might lead.
Unfortunately, our daily lives aren’t readily witnessed from a vantage point such as this. Only God has that view. We, as the mortal souls we are, slide along through this life, bumping and jogging along the trail that has been laid before us not knowing for sure what will be around each bend.
We strive to anticipate with great effort in planning, protecting and prodding to move along. Some people choose to find a comfortable spot along the way and simply stop their journey. The surroundings seem nice, the climate is good and comfort is found. Yet they stop short of an even better place that might be discovered just around the bend if they had only been willing to move ahead.
Others forge ahead recklessly ignoring warning signs and safety markers along the way. These people careen out of control around curves or dash headlong into gullies and ravines along the way. Crumpled and bruised they crawl from the ditches of life only to resume their haste, and achieve full speed once again.
For all the time and energy, all the hassle and waste, for all the success and all the failures, I believe the most tragic of all adventurers along life’s winding way are those who choose to make the journey never seeking nor experiencing deep, meaningful love and peace.
On the outside, they seem so in control. Certain material success, maybe even fame and fortune mark their journey. Others travel quietly, unassuming, never being noticed by anyone else, making no waves along the path. Yet from deep within their heart is a longing for a connection with just one someone with whom they could share the journey.
At first the desire is very real, but then they are able to push it aside or press it deep within their soul so as not to have to speak to it. A pattern develops which some call denial. It becomes easier to say “I did it my way” than to acknowledge the ache that pounds from within. For to admit means having to deal with it.
Yes, it might be nice to see all the answers and know the final destination, just as it can be seem from 30,000 feet above Earth. But somehow, it seems that would eliminate the surprise, making the living of this life just an exercise in locomotion.
I believe God has not made us for the destination. Rather, He has created us, each uniquely and wonderfully made, for the journey. And I also believe this journey is not meant to be lived alone.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for those loved ones, family and friends who make the journey a joy and a blessing. While not every step is smooth, having those good people along for the ride is a wonderful treat. Hug somebody you love or admire. Let them know their worth in your life.
There is a big difference between having intentions and living intentionally. Our intentions are our thoughts about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Some think about it as choices.
We are faced with dozens of choices every day — some little, some big; from whether to choose a salad or a chocolate sundae for lunch to what job we take, our world today is full of options.
On the other hand, living intentionally requires action. Your good thought is meaningless without action. Once your thoughts get put into action, then you can become intentional.
The thing is, sometimes it’s much easier to just go with the flow and not think about those options and the required action.
What is an Intention?
TheFreeDictionary.com defines intention as
a course of action that one intends to follow, an aim that guides action, an objective.
Merriam-Webster.com defines intention as a determination to act in a certain way.
As shared in “When your Relationships are Good, your Life is Good”, an intention is a clear and positive statement of an outcome you want to experience. An intention is a goal, or vision, that guides your activities, thoughts, attitudes, and choices. Hence, your intentions influence your actual experiences.
You can set an intention in any area of your life- physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Although intentions start with a mental picture of your goal, intentions require focus, action, and positive energy to manifest.
Having Intentions; Good or Otherwise
Many fathers have stood in the doorway to their homes as a young man approaches planning to pick up their daughter for a dance or a date. The Dad usually works into the conversation “what are your intentions young man”? That may sound a little dated phraseology, but its meaning is clear. The Dad is saying tell me what you are thinking about doing even before the evening has begun.
Our active minds can conjure thoughts of very good intentions like:
I’m going to lose weight
I’m going to spend less or save more
I’m going to get that promotion
I’m going to marry him/her
Why are Intentions Important?
Intentions provide a framework for you to set priorities, use your time wisely, and align yourself with the resources you need to manifest your goals. The process of setting and working towards your intentions declares to yourself, others, and the universe that you are serious about your dreams and goals.
A strong, positive, and energized intention is likely to repel that which is not in alignment with it. The opposite is also true. A strong, positive, and energized intention will attract the essence of what it is.
Having good intentions is a far cry from living intentionally. As the sage wisdom tells us “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. This sentiment makes it clear that having good ideas, or well meaning ones will not be worth anything without action. This is where intentional living kicks in.
Living intentionally is about doing the things that are important to you even when they’re not easy. It is about solid choices consistent with your vision about where you want to go.
Too many people get lulled into routines and habits that never produce the outcome they dreamed about. Instead of intentional living, they drift.
In the best selling book “[easyazon_link keywords=”Living Forward” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]Living Forward[/easyazon_link]”, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy describe the need to stop drifting through life. They ask the question are we drifting through life as spectators, reacting to our circumstances when necessary and wondering just how we got to this point anyway? Or are we directing it, maximizing the joy and potential of every day, living with a purpose or mission in mind?
They describe three stages of the transformational change that can occur when one decides to live an intentional life; drift, shift, and lift. I’ve added a fourth segment; gift. As you decide to stop drifting and move to intentional living, you ultimately become a gift to those around you and the communities where you live.
When you apply these four stages of growing toward intentional living, you can see the differences in each of the three key areas of work, life, and faith.
If you are in any position of leadership whether at work, at home, or in your community, you must be intentional. You know that, you feel that. Yet how often do you sense the drifting in your own actions? Are you just riding the wave? Or keeping it in cruise control?
Perhaps you have found your own ways to stay intentional with everything you do. Congratulations. But I am guessing that there are many of you out there who suffer from the occasional drift in your actions.
Let today be the day you decide to change. Forget yesterday and the opportunities lost. Today is a new day. Start fresh. Get your focus. Set your course. Remember, your good intentions need action.
There are way too many great plans and coaches available to help you plotting that course. There is no excuse. You can make a difference, right where you are, right now.
[reminder]How are you living and leading intentionally?[/reminder]
While academics debate whether emotional intelligence (EI) can be taught, in the workplace, HR professionals are searching for ways to identify EI among candidates and strengthen it in employees.
[shareable cite=”Thomas K. Arnold”]EI is the ability to understand your own feelings and to empathize with other people. [/shareable]
Dean Bender, principal at Bender/Helper Impact, a strategic communications firm with more than 40 employees and offices in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco, said he’s always looked beyond technical or practical skills when interviewing job candidates.
“We absolutely try to simulate a situation that could potentially occur and want to see how the candidate responds,” he said. “It could be related to deadlines, crisis or client relations. We’re about far more than just technical skills. I can teach or improve the many skills required for our profession, but there are intangibles that can’t be taught and we try to learn at an early stage just how emotionally intelligent our new employees are.”
Some academics see EI as a sharpening of traditional leadership skills, while others view it as a cluster of personality traits that promote well-being and self-actualization. Some researchers maintain that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others say it’s an inborn characteristic.
Many HR professionals embrace the theory that with training, coaching and time, a person’s EI can be honed so that he or she is able to express difficult emotions and remain calm even in stressful situations. For these HR professionals, EI is an important trait to bring to the workplace, particularly for those in leadership positions.
Studies have found that people who not only know and understand their own feelings, but who also comprehend and can deal with the feelings of others, function more effectively in every aspect of life. A 40-year study of University of California at Berkeley doctorate-degree holders found that a person’s EI was four times more likely than their intelligence quotient (IQ) to predict who would achieve success in their field of work.
David Caruso, a research affiliate in the department of psychology at Yale University and co-author of the business book The Emotionally Intelligent Manager (Jossey-Bass, 2014), said that other studies have shown that people with high EI “have better quality long-term relationships, are better at managing stress and create more-positive work environments.”
But he suggested that when considering someone for a job or promotion, first focus on intelligence and technical skills, then ascertain whether the candidate has the EI necessary for the position. Spotting emotional intelligence in a job candidate isn’t always easy, said John Mayer, a University of New Hampshire psychologist who is among researchers credited with coining the term “emotional intelligence” back in 1990. For one thing, people with different goals and personalities will express emotional intelligence differently. For example, he said, achievement-focused people will use their EI to get ahead; relationship-focused people will use it to maintain and improve relationships.
“I don’t believe it would be very easy for HR professionals to pick up emotional intelligence in an interview,” he said. “In my opinion, only ability-based tests are reliable, valid ways of doing that. Such tests are useful when there is good evidence that emotional intelligence is important to job performance.”
Caruso, Mayer and Yale University President Peter Salovey developed a model of EI, explaining that EI is comprised of measurable abilities in four areas: the ability to accurately perceive emotions, the ability to use emotions to facilitate thought, the ability to understand complex emotions and transitions between stages of emotions, and the ability to integrate data and emotions to devise effective problem-solving strategies.
The threesome then created a tool to objectively assess EI abilities: the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, or MSCEIT. The test measures and provides scores on these four emotional abilities. In a guide to the MSCEIT, Caruso wrote that the test was developed in accordance with two principles: Emotions are critically important to our success, and these emotional skills can be measured objectively.
“If you want to measure the ability to accurately identify how people feel, one way to do so is by asking the test-taker what emotions are being expressed in a photograph of someone’s face,” Caruso wrote. “For example, if you show a photo of a person displaying mild sadness, and the test-taker selects an answer indicating that the person is feeling a bit happy and somewhat surprised, then such an answer is considered incorrect.”
The International Society for Research on Emotion calls the MSCEIT “the most well-respected and widely used measure of EI,” but it is by no means the only emotional intelligence test available. There are dozens of tests, from dozens of sources, including TalentSmart, which claims that 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on its products and services.
Bender of Bender/Helper Impact said his company hasn’t yet deployed a formal emotional intelligence test, relying instead on his own interviewing abilities. But he’s certainly open to it, he said, and may yet “make it an official part of our interview process.”
Thomas K. Arnold is a freelance writer based in Carlsbad, Calif.
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.
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.
Today was very surreal. We are in London on the same day as the running of the 2013 London Marathon. If you have followed the news this past week, you are keenly aware of the horrific tragedy of the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, 4/15. Today, the entire city of London seemed to have turned out for the running of their marathon. There were over 35,000 runners and likely about 500,000 spectators. Normally crowds like that are daunting. But Susan and I strode headlong into the masses, not once thinking about the danger of or fear for a similar bombing attempt. I have to tell you it was empowering.
Earlier in the day the runners were led in a 30 second silent prayer for those killed or injured in Boston. Then the race was started. It was euphoric. These tens of thousands of dedicated souls snubbed their collective noses at malcontents everywhere who might try to perpetrate a fear campaign by staging a spineless and selfish act like a bombing. They banded together in solidarity with runners everywhere to demonstrate the strength of the human spirit to endure senseless acts of violence. They endured their own physical and mental challenge to press on to their finish lines, proving that just 6 days removed from a scary and tragic finish in Boston, there could be triumph once again.
As my wife and I walked through the crowds, we congratulated every runner we saw. In some cases we stopped and chatted, mentioning we were from the States and we expressed our appreciation for their attempt to run the race today. All seemed moved when they fully heard the context of our congratulatory remarks. One must recall the Brits have their own 9/11 and Boston experience. It is called 7/7 here for July 7, 2005 when 4 suicide bombers attacked three trains and a bus in simultaneous bombings. They know the same swirl of emotion we have felt; sadness for the loss of life and the pain and suffering of those injured. Yet, just like the USA, they pulled together and resumed life without giving an inch to the terrorists cause.
In London today, we saw that same strong spirit rise to the call. It was wonderful! Thank you U.K. for a trip we will never forget.