Getting ready for coaching

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

Getting ready for coachingOver recent posts we’ve seen that in order to turn more potential into high performance we needed to minimise the sources of interference which work against that happening.

But this presupposes that people come to us wanting to produce high performance, and this isn’t necessarily so.

If you’ve been asked or employed to provide some one-to-one coaching to a member of the executive team you can probably assume that they will be motivated to undertake some coaching with you. It follows that they are likely to give honest answers to your questions, to listen to your ideas and suggestions and to act on the things you’ve discussed between meetings and phone calls.

But in trying to bring coaching into general play; to position it as a management approach rather than a discrete intervention, you might find conditions less favourable. In some ways coaching has become a term cheapened by misuse and because of this you may encounter a certain amount of resistance. This can range from the mildly apathetic to the downright hostile. It all seems bizarre, given that we’re simply trying to help people so let’s look at the common reasons for this resistance.

  • Management is up to something
  • Coaching is for poor performers
  • I’m okay where I am

Management is up to something

Okay, it’s a cynical view but is hardly surprising given the way some management teams behave. People have had change initiatives thrown at them for years now and most of them have amounted to very little. If this has been people’s experience then it’s small wonder that coaching is greeted with little enthusiasm. People can tell when you’ve been away on a course and been ‘got at’.  They also know that if they keep their heads down then after a few days you’ll probably go back to ‘normal’.

Coaching is for poor performers

Nobody likes to be thought of as needing special lessons, but all too often coaching is presented this way. A strong desire to improve performance in the organisation gets mutated into ‘I’m being coached, so I must be doing something wrong’ in the mind of the individual.

In my experience this particular worry is most easily countered by pointing to the worlds of entertainment and sport where coaching is a vital ingredient whatever the level of current performance, Great sportspeople and entertainers welcome regular and intensive coaching even though their level of performance is already astonishing by most standards.

By mindful though that sporting analogies and so on can seem a little tiresome for some.

I’m okay where I am

An overzealous approach to coaching can make it seem as if we want everybody to be Superman. Some people resist coaching because they’re quite content where they are and do not want to actively pursue a promotion or a change of role. Great! That’s fine but let’s make sure that people realise that coaching isn’t just about climbing the greasy pole. We can coach to help people feel less threatened by change. We can coach to help people get back to the parts of their job they once really enjoyed. We can coach to help people find a work-life balance. Coaching is a way of taking the next step and as such it has applications throughout working life and, I think, should be made available to all. However, let’s also respect people’s right not to be coached if that is what they would prefer. To do so goes a long way to establishing the credibility of coaching and building the trusting relationships so vital to its success. In time even the most reluctant of people will try coaching when they have something in mind they’d like to achieve.

Limiting beliefs are based on evidence

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

Limiting beliefs are based on evidenceJo and Sam both work on the Organisation Development (OD) section of a large local authority and their work involves submitting proposals for OD to projects to the Senior Management Team for approval.

Jo believes that Senior Management do not support new ideas. She backs this up by explaining that her budget submission for this year was turned down flat and that this particularly upset her given that her previous year’s budget had been approved. She goes on to point out that in the last six months six out of ten project inception proposals had been declined. She feels that senior management are just too conservative and tend to reject anything new.

Sam believes that Senior Management are supportive of new ideas. To illustrate this he points out that although his budget for this year was turned down, last year’s submission, which was far more radical, was approved. He says that four out of every ten project inception proposals are approved and that many of the ones rejected should never have been submitted in the first place. In Sam’s view the Senior Management team are very conservative and so need a compelling case to support a new idea.

Same roles, same circumstances, same management team, but utterly polarised beliefs about them.

Believing the senior management team to be unsupportive Jo is likely to work on her budgets without any real enthusiasm and to do only what is necessary on her reports knowing they’ll probably be rejected anyway.

Believing the senior management team to be supportive, Sam is likely to produce a highly detailed budget submission and to make sure his reports show a strong supporting case for his suggestions.

Jo is likely to be turned down, Sam is likely to be supported, adding further supporting evidence to each of their beliefs.

The reinforcement of beliefs is further strengthened by an area of our brains known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS). Our RAS is a filtering system that prevents us being overloaded by the huge array of stimuli that assail our senses every day. Have you ever noticed that if you see a car with an unusual colour that you suddenly seem to see them everywhere? This is your RAS at work. Cars of that colour were always there but your RAS has now been alerted to notice them.

In our story above, Jo’s RAS will provide lots of supporting evidence to reinforce her belief about the senior team. Her brain will filter out anything that runs contrary. Sam’s on the other hand will do the opposite, providing proof that the team are supportive and confirming his beliefs.

The message for coaches is a simple one. If you uncover a limiting belief, challenge the evidence. Offer an alternative point of view and encourage your coachees to widen their perspective and to consider other points of view. You may not take away limiting beliefs overnight, but you can certainly loosen their hold.

Coaching and Limiting Beliefs

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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Limiting BeliefsThere is much talk in self-help and business improvement literature about beliefs. There is also much talk about vision and values, culture and ethos and much blurring at the edges of them all. So, let me firstly be clear about what I mean when I talk about beliefs. It is those things you hold to be ‘true’. For example, ‘the purpose of business is to make money’.

I attended a seminar recently and the first speaker clearly held this particular belief. At one point, he said that he defied anybody to claim that they were in business for any reason other than making money. A hand went up and a young man explained that no, for him business was about providing opportunities for people and building something from scratch. This was particularly galling and embarrassing for the first speaker as the young man was due to speak next and was clearly not ‘on message’.

Limiting beliefs are therefore those that interfere with our potential being released. They are the things which we hold to be true that prevent us taking action or doing things differently. Here are some of the ones I’ve come across on many occasions:

  • I will be in trouble if I get this wrong
  • Senior management will never support this idea
  • I’m the manager, I’m supposed to have all the answers
  • I must win at all costs
  • I am working, I am not here to enjoy myself

Some of you might believe some of these statements to be ‘true’ for you, and you might be right. Beliefs can never be proved as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or they’d be facts and not beliefs.

Our role as coaches is not to agree or disagree with such statement of belief; rather it is our job to encourage deeper thought and challenge the assumptions on which such beliefs are often founded.

Let’s imagine we’re coaching someone who wants to implement a new shift rota because they feel it will be fairer and more efficient but who also articulates the belief that I will be in trouble if I get this wrong. Some might say, ‘don’t be silly’ or ‘of course you won’t’ or ‘to hell with them, do it anyway’, but this is unlikely to prove helpful as none of these responses challenge the basis of the limiting belief. Instead we could ask, ‘How do you know you’ll be in trouble?’, ‘What sort of trouble will you be in?’, ‘Have you been in this situation before?’, ‘Do you know other people who’ve handled this situation?’, ‘What can you do now to ensure it won’t go wrong’

We can see that these questions would encourage our coachee to think in greater detail about why they believe they would be in trouble and to consider whether to risk it. None of our questions are judgemental and so we are unlikely to get into an argument over who’s right and who’s wrong.

Simply inviting the people we coach to re-consider the basis of their limiting beliefs is often enough to leave them feeling mobilised to do something despite them. Other times, when the belief is deep rooted, it may be necessary to explore further and to consider how such beliefs come to be formed.

We’ll look at that next time.