If coaching is a continuous process, then it is not uncommon at all for coaching clients to email their coach about non-administrative matters. You may be wondering, how does this work? Is it coaching?
Today’s post explains how some emails are considered coaching and will discuss some best practices that can be rules for the road. These rules can also apply to voice mail correspondence.
Non-administrative emails can include such things as assessment results and “journal” entries. What do I mean by journal entries? Reflections connected to your coaching agreements (see Core Competencies, #2) and coaching goals. This can include reflections on the last coaching conversation or thoughts about an event like how a meeting you led went where you tried a new behavior or something surprising happened. I invite my coaching clients to use any form of communication they prefer to communicate between face to face meetings. You might choose email and a parallel coaching process can emerge through these email strings. However, what are the rules of engagement? Here is what I suggest to my clients so there are clear, mutual expectations.
If you don’t ask for a response you might not get one.
If you email me and don’t ask for a response then you might not get one. Please be assured that I have read your email and am taking in whatever you are saying.
If you don’t ask for a response you MIGHT get one.
On the other hand if I am struck in some way by what you send and feel that it would be helpful to respond before our next coaching conversation, I may try to respond in a way that is helpful even if you didn’t specifically ask for a response. I might pose a Powerful Question (see Core Competencies, #6).
If you ask for a response, I will respond in some way.
If you ask for a response I will respond in some way, at least acknowledging the receipt of the email and giving a coaching response of some sort.
I am all about using the coaching resources of my clients in the most fair and efficient way. For all between coaching session communications I generally use a fifteen minute rule. If my reading and response requires less than fifteen minutes, I don’t apply the time against their coaching contract. In my experience most exchanges of this sort aren’t billed for.
Please don’t hesitate to use any medium for communication about your coaching. All communications are subject to the basic rule of confidentiality with the following exception that might exist on your end.
A note about corporate email systems.
If you are emailing me from your organizations email server, you might want to check your company policy regarding privacy of emails. If you have any concerns about confidentiality use a personal email address for the types of emails I am discussing in this Blog. I am even willing to consider encrypted emails as an option, just ask. Also, hopefully the WikiLeaks phenomenon will not have a chilling effect on using email to communicate in a personally meaningful way.
Feedback is the life blood of high functioning organizations, hence the popularity of 360 methods for creating feedback loops within the organization.
But formalized 360 methods are not the only way to create feedback loops.
I had the great fortune to work with a high potential leader at a Global Fortune 100 company. One of the things I learned about this leader was his reputation within his organization to take whatever team he was working with and increase its effectiveness and impact. It didn’t matter if it was a low functioning team that needed to become high functioning or a high functioning team that was capable of award winning accomplishments (he had led both).
So when I met him, I was curious, wanting to learn more about him, I asked him, “What’s your secret in working with teams?”
He paused and thought for a moment. When he spoke I learned for the first time about the Start, Stop and Continue method. I have shared this story with many executive coaching clients. Here’s what he said.
Tom, after working with a new team for around six months (notice he didn’t go in and just start changing things), I set up one on one meetings with every one of my direct reports.
I ask them to prepare for the meeting by preparing the most helpful things they can tell me about the things I need to Stop doing. You know, those things that I think are effective but really aren’t.
I ask them to make suggestions about what I could Start doing that would be more helpful to them or the team.
Finally, I ask them to list anything I should continue doing that is most helpful to them or the team.
Then he said, “But that is only half of the process Tom, I let them know that I will also be preparing the same feedback for them and it will be my turn when they are done.”
He said that the team is never the same after these meetings. It sets the standard for giving and receiving constructive feedback within the team. It encourages individuals on the team to be more helpful to each other by sharing their insights with each other. I encourage us to give more feedback in team meetings as well. For instance, I try to role model a willingness to receive this type of feedback myself within team meetings. This helps people learn when it is appropriate to give this type of feedback in the team setting and how to give it constructively. I also encourage team members to give feedback about what the TEAM needs to Start, Stop and Continue to be more effective.
This method is attributed to Dr. Phil Daniels when he was a psychology professor at Brigham Young University.
If you want to create a feedback culture, consider using the Stop, Start and Continue method. If you have a “low trust” culture, expect it to take some time for people to warm up to it. In the end you might be amazed by the results.
If coaching is a continuous process, then the possibility of gathering data to demonstrate the value of coaching is also continuous.
People ask me, how do you measure value?
How will we know the coaching had impact?
The answer is to collect qualitative data throughout a coaching engagement. Qualitative data can point to the ROI that the coaching is yielding.
If qualitative data is an important potential ROI measure it raises the question, “How do I collect such data?”
(What IS qualitative data? See:
Of course as an executive coach other practical questions arise such as:
“How do I do this without burdening my client?”
“How do I do this and respect confidentiality boundaries?”
“How do I do this without creating too much burden on myself?”
Keeping a journal is a powerful tool to use during coaching. My suggested method of journaling has a low overhead, yet can deliver powerful results. So my answer to these questions is to have an integrated, value added process within my coaching engagements that has the potential to yield very rich qualitative data. I will be presenting two such processes today. One more simple and elegant. The other more rigorous and a little more time consuming. I have clients who have used both and found tremendous value if they do.
Both methods capitalize on crucial moments during the coaching engagement, often between coaching sessions, where either breakthrough or incremental learning is occurring. For example, when an executive has prepared to lead his or her team in a new way to develop new behaviors, they might want to reflect after the team meeting to capture important learning. Or if the coaching has helped someone prepare for a crucial conversation, reflecting on the process and outcome of the conversation can consolidate learning. The core principle in this process is Action -> Reflection. This principle is at the heart of adult learning in general and Reflective Learning in particular (Schon).
Simple and Elegant
This method is a simple journaling method. Some people resist the idea of having to take time to journal. Many don’t feel they have the luxury of time to journal. But this simple method makes it as easy as possible and even the least “anal” person can find this method worth the effort since it is so simple. Formula: Stop, write down your top of mind thoughts about a situation. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation. Just capture your immediate thoughts when considering an event that occurred within the last 24 hrs (memory decays significantly past 24 hrs). Each journal entry could be as brief as a short paragraph. Just capture the essence of what just happened and anything important that you notice.
This journal entry itself can solidify learning and capture enough about the situation to easily recall the situation for later reflection either with or without your coach.
For someone who likes to analyse more deeply and is willing to put more time and thought into their reflection, a reflection log can be incredibly useful.
For this purpose I have adapted the instrument developed by Dr. Francine Campone that she calls a Reflection Log. Originally used in coach training, this tool is an excellent tool to gather qualitative data during a coaching engagement.
Within this document there are FOUR columns.
|Event||My Left Hand
|Action & Outcomes||Insights/Learning Intentions|
|For any event you want to reflect upon, note the event here. An event may consist of a few lines of dialogue, a single question and response or prompt and response, or a lengthy segment of a meeting or discussion devoted to exploring a single topic or idea. Write down (in bullet form or sentences) a brief sketch of the event. If you provide some brief context to the event, make sure you identify the specific event, for instance by BOLD-FACING that part you want to focus on.||In this column, try to capture the essence of those thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and expectations which were in your mind and which you did not deliberately communicate to the person or group. This is also the place to note any instinctive reactions or “gut feelings” you might have experienced but that probably weren’t voiced.||Imagine you’re a video-camera capturing what an observer might see and hear in the exchange AS A RESULT OF YOUR OBSERVATIONS and ASSUMPTIONS. Focus here on what YOU did and how others responded to the specific event. Note as much as possible of the actual language you and others used. Describe gestures, actions, vocal qualities. In other words, what did you DO as a result of Columns 1 and 2, and then what happened?
Action: (What you did.)
Outcome: (What happened as a result.)
|This is where you look at the fit between your left hand column, what you actually did and the outcomes. If there’s a gap, pose questions which might help you consider alternative explanations; probe your assumptions; examine your rationale for speaking differently from how you were thinking. If there’s alignment between the second and third columns, use this column to explore why you believe the strategy was effective. Note what you might do differently next time to generate better outcomes (in the case of the gap event) and to build on interactions which appear to be effective.|
The reflection log can yield deep insight and learning. For instance it can reveal assumptions you were making about an event and how it influenced your action and results. The immediate value this can yield is in the significant learning that can occur. The longer term value journal entries can yield come from the significant ROI that can be implied by the stories that emerge from the journal and the qualitative data it contains. Of course the journal is “owned” by the person who is journaling, but they can select specific action-impact stories from their journal that they want to share, which illustrate impact that they attribute directly to the coaching conversation. When my coaching engagements include a closure meeting with my client’s manager or HR representative, these stories are compelling and often demonstrate the impact that coaching has delivered. In my next blog entry I will be presenting and discussing a simple surveying method that can help coaching clients capture change and growth that they believe is directly related to their coaching experience.
[Contact information is NEVER shared without your specific permission.)
There are several fundamental elements in having influence in your world. In this blog post, I will be discussing three in particular.
People often wonder why they fail at their attempts to be an influence. It can be frustrating when you want to influence others in a way that improves things and then discover it has “blown up in your face”. This kind of setback is disheartening and has a demoralizing effect on your hopes that you can promote positive change.
Often, this type of disappointment is rooted in not having taken fundamental elements of change into account when you have taken action.
The three key fundamentals that I will be discussing are Trust, Risk and Intent.
When a problem is present in our lives, self-deception can lie at the heart of understanding the nature of the problem. The two basic forms of self-deception are “The problem is ME, and I can’t see it”, made famous in the book, “Leadership and Self Deception” and “The problem is NOT ME, but I think it is.”, and is touched upon in the book, “The Anatomy of Peace” which will be the focus of this article.
I often suggest to my coaching clients that coaching is continuous, not a series of isolated events. What does this mean? Many people rely on past experience to think about how they view coaching. This often results in the thought that the only time coaching is available to them is at formal scheduled appointments and for a standard length of time. Some coaching clients even think that it would be an interruption to their coach to have any contact outside those scheduled appointments. Nothing could be further from the truth. (more…)
Some of you might remember by blog post on relational presence (below).
Now, there is a great webcast of Terry Warner, the founder of the Arbinger Institute (Leadership and Self Deception), where he talks about the famous Christmas truce during WWI.
This is a great opportunity to hear the person who is the original source for the Arbinger material. Here are two things that stood out in my experience watching this webinar:
First, what struck me was the range of emotions that I experienced participating in this webinar.
Second, the time distortion that I experienced is not uncommon for me when I am with someone with a powerful personal presence. I looked at the clock at least three times during the webinar amazed that it wasn’t already over.
If you want to check it out, it is available on YouTube. Consider it a holiday offering to you and yours:
My previous blog post on relational presence:
One of the most universal challenges that I experience with leaders is how challenging it is to have “crucial conversations”. Many people avoid conflict and dislike it when they are in conflict situations. This can make it very difficult to face situations where the conflict arises through their own action, for instance, when your responsibility requires that you hold someone accountable. As one of my executive coaching clients stated, “This has always been the thing I hate the most about my job. I have learned to do it because I had to, but I still hate doing it.” What might be surprising is that this client has worked in crisis situations in relation to his work that were full of tension, even where life and death were at stake, but giving difficult feedback is still felt to be the hardest part of their job!
A few “hints” that might help you in this area: (more…)
Years in the making, The brand image, focus and intent of Infinite Potential has become clearer and is represented by the new look of my Blog/webpage.
I am looking forward to sharing more with you in the areas of leadership development and executive coaching. I invite you to be part of the journey!