Coaching: Inspire CommitmentPosted on December 9, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Not everyone we lead wants to be coached or agrees with the area of coaching that we identify as their leader.  These team members are content with their level of skill and experience.  Offering coaching to these team members in the context we have discussed in this blog would be a waste of energy because the team members are not open to guidance for improvement.  Sometimes team members agree with their area of development but lack initiative or discipline to follow-through with a plan for improvement.  As a coach we cannot perform the development actions FOR the team member.  If the team member does not demonstrate commitment to do the work, then once again coaching is not the proper leadership development intervention.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

For those team members that are disengaged with their development, we must manage them through specific expectations, tasks and deadline management.  But for our team members that have demonstrated a genuine interest in learning and becoming better, we should not miss the opportunity to inspire their commitment to growth and development.  When a team member is “pulling” development (rather than us “pushing” development) the window for openness and learning is so much greater, and the chances of coaching success much higher.  The first step in engaging commitment is to clearly identify the GAPS between where the team member is today and where they want to go in the future.

How can you do it?

  1. Goals:  What do you want to do?  To start a development journey, we must know where we are heading.  Ask your team member to think about their values, interests and why they want to develop.  These answers will drive behavior and provide clearer purpose for development.
  2. Abilities:  What can you do?  Before we can draw a map of how to get to any destination, we must identify where we are today.  Ask our team members questions about their skills, strengths, and opportunities for improvement (from their perception).  There are also books, on-line assessments that can assist with self-awareness such as Strengths-Based Leadership and Emotional Intelligence 2.0.
  3. Perceptions:  How do others see you?  Once we become clearer about how we view our self, we then need to compare that view to others’ perceptions.  The gap between how we view our self and other’s view helps prioritize opportunities for development.  Seek feedback from key stakeholders who work with the team member and share that feedback with your team member.
  4. Standards:  What do others expect of you?  Lastly, when we know what performance is expected of us and what our current abilities are, we can prioritize our development focus.  Make sure that the team member clearly knows what is expected of them by both you and the organization.

What other strategies have you used (or a coach has done for you in your past) that inspired the commitment to development?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Building Trust – Restoring Trust With Your TeamPosted on December 2, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Relationships are hard work in all aspects of a person’s life, let alone at work. Throughout relationship interactions there are “deposits” to the relationship bank account (contributions both have made toward building trust) and “withdrawals” (actions both have taken that diminish trust).  It takes effort to pay attention to this “trust balance”.  Maintaining trust also requires a level of self-awareness and humility to take ownership for individual contributions to the leader/team relationship.  Not all leaders are willing to hold themselves accountable for the time and effort the maintenance that the leader/team trust relationship requires.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Over the past five weeks this blog series has focused on strategies to build trust in the coaching relationship.  However, even with the best intentions trust can break down in this fragile relationship.  A leader might slip into old patterns of behavior.  There might emerge a new miscommunication between the leader and team member.  As a leader we might inadvertently forget to follow through with a commitment.  Even though trust is certainly a two-way street, it is the coach’s responsibility to begin the steps toward restoring trust in the relationship.

How can you do it?

  1. Make the first move.  To create the conditions for restoring trust in the leader/team relationship, you must lead the way and play your “cards” first or be the first to extend trust.  This will require you to reveal the motives behind your actions or disclose more about yourself and your thought processes than you are typically comfortable with.  When you do this, it “resets” the terms for the relationship, raises the standard for frank talk, which will hopefully demonstrate that you trust the other, so they will reciprocate.
  2. Own it – admit your mistakes.  Your team will forgive your mistakes, but they will fault you for pretending that nothing is wrong.  Almost certainly actions you will take or decisions you make will fail at times.  Leaders must demonstrate the honesty to admit to yourself first that you were wrong and the courage to apologize to others, and invite the team’s opinion on what could have been done better for the future.
  3. Recommit and follow through with what you say you will do.  Be specific with your team about what strategies you are willing to commit to going forward that will improve the leader/team relationship.  Demonstrate your commitment through your improved behavior.  And invite your team to speak up and hold you accountable when you are not demonstrating these behaviors.

When trust has been damaged with one or more of the team members you coach, what other strategies have you implemented to restore trust?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Building Trust – Your Team Believes You Are Competent to “Do” What You “Say”Posted on November 25, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

In some leadership cultures, it is acceptable for a leader to “talk” a big game and not be accountable for what they say they will do.  Leaders in these cultures behave as if they don’t really have to know anything, because title allows them to order their “people” to do the work on their behalf.  Some leaders might believe that they put in their “dues” to get to their current position so now they can coast and keep things the status quo.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In SOMC’s leadership culture the center of trust is competence, and the consistent demonstration that leader actions match their words really matters.  Even if people believe that their leader has a heart of gold, they will have difficulty trusting their leadership if they do not believe that their leader can actually do what they say.  When there is unexplained incongruence between a leader’s words and their behaviors, the team will believe the behaviors every time.  Make sure your leadership actions reinforce trust, not detract from it.

How can you do it?

  1. Test your track record.  Take an inventory of tasks and commitments you have made to your team.  How many of these commitments have you held yourself accountable to meet?  How many have you failed to follow through on?  Develop a plan on how to revisit these commitments with your team, apologize for the failure to hold yourself accountable and communicate your plan for how you intend to follow through.  And DO IT.
  2. Admit your limits.  Do not let your confidence exceed your ability to perform.  Come to terms with what you can and cannot do and be open about it (because your team already knows your opportunities).  Utilize your teams’ strengths to minimize your weaknesses.  Asking for help from your team demonstrates that you trust them…and trust is reciprocal.
  3. Showcase what you know and “sharpen your saw”.  Draw upon your strengths and be willing to coach others with the skills for which you have a consistent track record.  Seek opportunities to research and share relevant information with your team.  Take on tasks that stretch your comfort zone, so you can demonstrate to your team that you are willing to learn.

Describe some other strategies you have used to “sharpen your saw”?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Building Trust – Your Team Believes You Care About Their InterestsPosted on November 18, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Leaders have the daily challenge of balancing the needs, concerns, and interests of multiple stakeholders with competing organizational priorities.  Sometimes decisions or changes must be implemented so fast that there is not adequate time to communicate the “why” behind them to all involved.  Leaders may also be hesitant to demonstrate concern for the interests of their team for fear of being perceived as “wishy washy”, weak or indecisive.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Even though team members understand their leader has multiple stakeholders that they are accountable to, the team still fundamentally wants to believe that their leader is on their side.  This is another building block of trust. Team members want to know that their concerns are given equal consideration by the leader.  Teams want to trust that their leader will advocate on their behalf and support them when it is the right thing to do, but also be direct about the “why” when it is NOT the right thing in each situation.  When team members trust that their leader is looking out for them, it is more likely that they will trust the leader when a decision or action is communicated that is not in their favor.

How can you do it?

  1. Be transparent about the “why” behind your decisions.  Trust is built on the truth.  When leading and coaching your team, share the background and context of your decisions and recommendations.  This openness demonstrates to your team that you trust them enough to share that information and allows them to understand your thinking process.
  2. Demonstrate sensitivity to those affected by your decisions.  Implement your decisions after thoughtfully considering the pros and the cons, especially the negative consequences that those affected might experience.  Talk this process through with your team so that they realize you truly have considered all sides of the matter before proceeding with a decision.
  3. Verify understanding of your team members’ interests.  Your team needs to be clear that you understand their needs or concerns before they can trust that you will accurately represent their interests in your decision making.  Take the time to ask questions and clarify the concerns of the stakeholders involved.  Share the input back with the stakeholders to verify accuracy and completeness.

Describe another behavior either you or a leader you trust has put into action that demonstrates consideration of others interests in decision making? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Building Trust – Your Team Believes You Do What You SayPosted on November 11, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Leaders are tasked to produce results and get things done.  In doing so, sometimes leaders take on more that they can realistically accomplish, or they fail to prioritize appropriately.  When this happens, and leaders admit their shortcomings to their teams, apologize and ask for help, trust rarely suffers.  But when leaders consistently fail to follow through with their commitments and to own that failure, then trust in the coaching relationship is compromised.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The teams we are coaching expect us to do what we say we are going to do.  Our words and behaviors need to match.  If we say one thing and do another, we are at high risk for our team members placing little trust in our coaching and guidance.  This trust trap also makes claims of holding team members accountable empty, if we are unwilling to hold ourselves accountable.  We need to test whether we are living up to our word by asking (1) how frequently does my team have to follow up with me on things I have agreed to do? (2) how often do I drop the ball or let new priorities get in the way of completing previous commitments?   If your answers indicate this is an opportunity for you, below are some strategies to help you repair this aspect of trust.

How can you do it?

  1. Make realistic commitments.  Trust takes it on the chin when expressions of support or promises of help are not backed up with leader actions.  If you cannot promise an outcome, share a realistic prediction so your team knows what to expect.  Share with your team the process or parameters that you will have to follow in delivering on the commitment.
  2. Explain changes in your plan.  Things change…and it is OK to change your original plans. What builds trust in a coaching relationship is when we communicate changes and the “why” behind the changes so team members can learn and understand the complexities of situations.
  3. Close the loop.  Sometimes we actually DO follow though on what we have promised, but no one knows about it.  Avoid this trap by closing the loop promptly and deliberately when you have completed an action to which you have committed.

What other strategies have you put in place to improve the perception that you do what you say?  Log on and join the conversation at wwwt.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Building Trust – Your Team Knows What to Expect of YouPosted on November 4, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Most leaders are in their current roles because they are good at what they do functionally.  For this reason, it is tough for leaders to let go of tasks or processes that may have been their reason for promotion.  The same is true for information.  Sometimes leaders hold onto information, not always for power, but to preserve their status as “resource” to those they serve.  This is kind of like my Mom and her recipes – being reluctant to let people in to the “secret sauce” ingredients for our prized dishes.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The team members we serve value predictability in their environment at work.  They want to know what to expect so they can anticipate changes and make decisions comfortably.  The high-performance teams we are trying to coach want to know that this foundation element of trust is in place before they will comfortably take risks and make decisions autonomously.   Some questions you can ask to assess whether your team might know what to expect from you are as follows: How often do I try to protect my team by keeping information or concerns to myself?  How often do I make decisions without sharing how or why I arrived at my conclusions?  How active is gossip among the team I work with?  Based on your answers consider strengthening trust through the following actions.

How can you do it?

  1. Offer status reports and forecasts.  To avoid your team guessing or drawing their own conclusions, tell them what you do and don’t know, as well as what you can and cannot tell them.  Even a “non-update” is an update.
  2. Convey consistent principles.  No team expects us to give the same answers all the time.  But what they do expect is for us to be consistent to certain core principles.  Communicate what your core principles are, communicate how your decisions are consistent with these…and when they are not, explain the “why” or unique circumstances that might be a part of your decision.
  3. Give people plausible explanations for your actions.  Sometimes your intentions are not easily apparent to others because you might be taking multiple factors into account of which your team might not be aware.  Make sure to explain changes or discrepancies in your actions.  If you don’t, the team members involved will draw their own conclusions about your intentions.
  4. Be careful with candor.  “Just tell it like it is” is a simplistic understanding of communication in any relationship.  Complete disclosure of opinions can be just as damaging as secrets or hidden agendas.  You need to balance candor with context.

What other strategies have you used to create an environment where people know what to expect from you?  Log on and join the conversation at wwwt.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Building and Verifying TrustPosted on October 28, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Most leaders see ourselves as basically trustworthy people.  We go throughout our day, completing our tasks, assuming that those around us are doing the same and trusting the guidance we are providing.  When leaders see team members dragging their feet, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the team is just not motivated or committed.  We fail to regularly step back and look at the environment we are creating through our leadership behaviors to determine if there is some other cause of the team’s disengagement.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The biggest challenge with trust, happens when we fail to recognize its absence.  When leaders do not verify trust, it might be assumed that the team has been open, when in fact they have provided only part of the story.  Or, leaders assume that their team trusts their intentions and frankness, when they do not.  When you see the following behaviors among your team, the trust relationship between you and those you are coaching might be compromised: (1) suspicion and accusation of hidden agendas, (2) lip service and/or neglect of agreed upon actions, (3) defensiveness and blaming others when problems arise, and (4) protection of self-interest to the detriment of the team’s interest.  Leaders must regularly audit the trust level of the relationships with those we lead and coach.  Over the next several weeks we will explore each of the following steps in detail.

How can you do it?

Trust Test #1: Does your team know what to expect from you?  Your team values predictability so they can properly anticipate changes, make decisions and follow plans.  Do you keep people in the dark about where the department is going and what you are planning?  Do you try to “protect” your team by keeping information and concerns to yourself?

Trust Test #2: Does your team believe you do what you say?  While this seems obvious, when leaders fail to do what they say they are going to do, trust suffers.  How often does your team have to follow up with you about things you have agreed to do?  Do you regularly commit to things that you, and your team, know you won’t be able to do?

Trust Test #3: Does your team believe you pay attention to their interests?  Despite your multiple commitments and competing priorities, your team needs to believe that you are with them and together on the same side.  How often do you convey that your team’s interests are less important than other priorities?  How often have you been observed sharing information about others that might be a breach of confidence?

Trust Test #4: Does your team believe you are competent to carry out what you say?  Even if people believe your intentions are good, your team will not have trust in you if you cannot do what you claim.  What is your track record on completing projects you say you are going to do?  Have you been open about failures you have had and taken responsibility for them?

Reflecting on the “Trust Test” questions, which one do you think is a priority to work on with a team member(s) you are coaching?  Log on and join the conversation at wwwt.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Forging A Partnership – Tune InPosted on October 21, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

During a leader’s day there are many tasks that need completed, meetings to attend and “fires” to put out.  Often these “management” tasks take up most of a leader’s time leaving very little space to develop meaningful partnerships with team members.  Building partnerships with team members who want coaching takes time, preparation and commitment.  Without the discipline to dedicate time for building a coaching relationship with these team members, leaders will allow tasks to distract them.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

When leaders focus on the fundamentals of partnership they have with those who want coaching, they create the foundation for coaching and set the conditions and safety for people to change.  For coaching to be effective, both parties need an environment where candid dialogue can happen.  That environment needs to be safe…and that safety can only happen with trust.  Before trust can develop (tune in for next week’s blog) leaders must first focus attention on what’s important to the team member being coached.  Leaders need to “tune in” and demonstrate genuine interest in what the person values and how they view the world before the leader can expect them to accept their perspective.

How can you do it?

  1. Set your mind to exploring, not fixing.  Temporarily let go of the desire to help or “fix”.  This is so difficult because leaders are good at fixing.  Start first with seeking to understand the other person.  Get into a “detective mindset” to look for clues of what the person values, goals they have, and motivations that inspire them to act.
  2. Look for the right evidence.  Determine your team member’s world view by looking for cues to answer the following: (1) What excites them?  What actions get them enthusiastic?  What activities do they volunteer for most of talk about most frequently? (2) How do they view their skills and abilities? and (3) What do they believe about their ability to develop?  Are they willing to take risks to change?
  3. Listen carefully.  Practice effective listening skills while coaching your team member.  Ask open-ended questions during interactions.  Summarize or paraphrase your understanding of the interaction and verify if your “data” is right.
  4. Tune in to situational responses.  Be observant to your team member’s responses. How do they respond to new situations? What strong emotions do they exhibit?  What behavior did they demonstrate that was unexpected?  Use these observations as cues and ask clarifying questions to understand the “why”.

During your life, what are some other behaviors that coaches have demonstrated to “tune in” to you?  Log on and join the conversation at wwwt.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Self-Development Comes F.I.R.S.T.Posted on October 14, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

When I have searched for resources about coaching in leadership, most of what I have found revolve around the behaviors leaders can do to coach their teams.  We are going to continue to explore those throughout the rest of this blog series, but it is important at this time to talk about the responsibilities of the team members leaders are trying to coach.  Leaders that want their teams to grow and improve, and try different coaching techniques, will have mixed results depending on the team members’ individual commitment and/or desire to be coached.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

As in any relationship, it takes two to tango.  The leader owns the commitment to time and resources to assist team members with their growth.  The team members, though, actually bear the bulk of the day-to-day work that puts the leader’s coaching into action.  For team members that have no interest in self-development, the leader needs to manage tasks and priorities.  But, for team members that express an interest in the professional growth that leader coaching could assist with, must be committed to self-development F.I.R.S.T.

How can you do it?

F- Focus on Priorities:  Team members need to identify the critical issues and development goals that matter to both them and the organization.  Being clear about these priorities and communicating them to their leader, will focus both party’s energy and resources on what is most important.

I – Implement Something Every Day:  Team members wanting to develop need to stretch their comfort zone.  They must be willing to try new behaviors in new situations that put them to the test.

R – Reflect on What Happens:  Self-development requires team members to reflect and extract maximum learning from these experiences.  Without investing in the time to think and assimilate learning experiences, lessons go to waste.  Team members need to distill what worked well, what went wrong, and develop a plan for what they will do differently next time in that situation.

S – Seek Feedback and Support:  Team members interested in development can also learn from the reflections from others’ ideas and perspectives.  These team members need to ask for input and gather other relevant information about their progress.

T – Transfer to Next Steps:  Self-development is not static.  Team members and their coaches should cycle back periodically to look at their development goals, make sure they are still on track, and adjust their plan if new development opportunities emerge or become a priority.

What are additional self-development strategies you have used over your career to maximize your development?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: When to Coach Versus ManagePosted on October 7, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Leaders find comfort in tasks – our own tasks and the tasks of others.  Managing tasks is concrete and objective.  Managing tasks reinforce our competence in the work we “used” to do.  Managing our own tasks or the tasks of our departments gives us a definitive sense of accomplishment at the end of our day.  And managing tasks is a very important part of achieving results.  But those on your team that are highly competent, dependable and engaged may not need or want “managed”.  These team members only require a nudge now and again, feedback for improvement…coaching.  Coaching as a behavior is not as comfortable as our default day-to-day task management.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

When I first started my career, I had a leader that wanted to manage every step of my work.  This leader would not allow me to make independent decisions and would re-do most of the work I performed at her direction.  I very quickly disengaged with the work and almost left the organization as a result.  Instead, I took a risk, and shared my perspective with the leader who to my surprise, completely changed her approach with me.  Even though completely out of her comfort zone, she modified her micromanagement behavior to a more coaching style, which created an environment for use to collaborate more and escalate my learning.

How can you do it?

  1. Coach by delegating a task/project, then “get out of the way”.  Adults learn by doing…and our teams can’t “do” if we are “doing” everything! Ha! It is so hard to let go of tasks we really love doing.   But we must if we want our highly engaged team members to grow.  Delegating important work demonstrates to our teams that we trust them.  To further that trust and maximize learning, we must allow our team to do the work on their own and in their own way.
  2. Coach by engaging in feedback discussions.  Delegating important work is a start, but coaching involves regular interaction and processing of what went well and what did not go well.  Engage your team with input for improvement and share your observations.  Do this as close to the event, project, task as possible to maximize the learning for both you and your team.
  3. Coach by processing feelings, behaviors and beliefs for future application.  Critical thinking is a skill that can only be developed through experience and challenging our thinking through those experiences.  Coaching our team by processing situations or issues, talking about our feelings, behaviors and beliefs at the time, and how we could change those for a better outcome in the future helps develop critical thinking skills.

Describe a coaching behavior that a leader has demonstrated with you in the past that has propelled your leadership development?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


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