Category Archives: Coaching

Coaching: Shape the EnvironmentPosted on December 30, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

(12/30/18)

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Development takes effort and some leaders may downplay development as taking time away from “their real jobs”.  When leaders themselves are not taking the initiative to learn and develop, those they lead are likely to assume that development is not a priority.  Development also requires a bit of vulnerability, so others can learn with the leader and from their mistakes.  But not all leaders have the emotional intelligence to open up about their opportunities.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

As people develop, the working environment can either propel them forward or obstruct their progress.  For a culture of development to thrive, the environment must be shaped by the leader of that organization.  Those we lead pick up on the subtle signals from us on whether they should forge ahead, retreat, or play it safe.  Odds are that our environment is sending mixed messages about the value of development.  To successfully shape the environment of your organization so that coaching and development have a chance to take hold, here are a few strategies you may want to consider.

How can you do it?

Build your visibility as a role model. 
Set an example through how you act and how you develop yourself.  Start by being coachable and open to being coached and learn from those you lead.  Make your development visible.  Be first to volunteer to talk through your opportunities, invite feedback and then process your learning with those you lead.

Strengthen the learning climate of your department/organization.
Make development a priority for those on your team that want to develop.  Commit to budgeting time in your team member’s schedule so that they can participate in the organization’s development opportunities. Share projects and development opportunities with those team members to recognize and reward their desire to grow.

Make it safer to go out on a limb.
Probably the most difficult task is to create a learning environment that supports people’s willingness to take risks.  Support well calculated experimentation so people have the opportunity to test the boundaries of what they are capable of.  Expect and celebrate failures for the lessons that failing teaches us by processing the lessons learned and what to try the next time. 

What other steps have you taken to support a development culture in your department or organization?
Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.



Coaching: Promote Persistence and Thick SkinPosted on December 23, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

(12/23/18)

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Change is hard.  Change is uncomfortable.  Change is messy.  And like most human beings, leaders want to take actions that keep their learning path in the “comfort zone”.  It’s comfortable to stay stuck in old patterns of behavior.  Trying new opportunities, taking risks, or making decisions that push out of that comfort zone is scary.  Fear of failure, and the behaviors that result from that feeling, are the primary reasons most leaders stall on their development course.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

To quote my favorite fitness instructor, Debbie Kielmar, “the only way to improve your body’s ability to keep in balance, is to regularly throw it “out” of balance.”  If as leaders, our goal is to improve our ability to have crucial conversations, we actually have to HAVE them, Ha!  Like the body training its muscles to respond to being thrown out of balance, leaders must push themselves into development situations, process what happened, and learn what to do differently next time for improvement.  Each time leaders have development experiences that are properly processed for learning, skills sharpen, and skin thickens.  A leader/coach may be able to see these development opportunities better than the developing leader, as that leader’s brain is a comfort seeking missile.  Here are some strategies the leader/coach can use to nudge leaders out of the comfort zone.

How can you do it?

Reward progress not just results.
Changing normal patterns of behavior is extremely difficult. As you observe the developing leader try a new skill or tactic, provide them with feedback.  Even if the experience flopped, recognize them for the fact that they tried it because that first step is tough.  Help leaders see their skill development on a continuum and recognize when they make progress.

Be on the lookout for opportunities where the leader can try new or untested skills.  
Once you know what the leader’s goals are and what skills they are wanting to sharpen, be an opportunity scout.  Look within the department and though out your organization for opportunities for the leader to serve in new roles or test new skills.  Nudge them to try by connecting the opportunity with their GAP development plan.

Build confidence for risk taking.
Help the leader prepare for the new challenge through active practice, including script writing and role play.  Share stories of your experiences with similar challenges – what went well and what did not go well.  Be a safety net.  Reassure the leader that you believe they take on the challenge, but you are there for them if they need you.

What other strategies have you used to “nudge” leaders you coach to push past their comfort zone?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Coaching: Build New CompetenciesPosted on December 16, 2018

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

We all are at risk of professional inertia.  The competencies our team members have today have always worked in the past, so why change?  The problem with that thinking is that the environment is changing every day, and the competencies team members once had may not be adequate for the new landscape.   Team members may also be unclear as to which competencies need prioritized development and how they can go about learning the skills needed to be successful.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The primary role of the leader/coach is to be aware of the professional GAPS of those they serve and engage their team members in developing the priority competencies necessary for closing those gaps.  A leader/coach should use this awareness, coupled with their own experience with applying the competencies, to work collaboratively with team members on a plan to develop the competencies that will make the biggest impact on their effectiveness.  Again, this coaching process is designed for those that WANT to be coached.  Of course, if a team member is neither engaged in receiving coaching nor capable of the competencies necessary to meet expectations, then a much different management process would be used.

How can you do it?

  1. Connect with appropriate experiences and resources to develop priority competencies.  Experience is not always the best teacher.  Team members might learn the “wrong” lesson from the experience.  The “right” experiences might not be available and waiting for them might take too long for the development need.  Coaches help “shorten” the learning curve through looking out for and seizing job-related experiences that will give exposure to the team member.  Coaches also share reading and other learning methods that represent the best learning method for the competency being developed.
  2. Take advantage of coachable moments.  The best coachable moments happen when there are either surprising successes or failures and disappointments.  Coaches do celebrate successes with their team members, but also help process what happened and how this knowledge can be leveraged again for repeated success.  Similarly, for failures, coaches help team members put the failure in perspective and objectively think through what lessons were learned from the disappointment an how to transfer this learning to future situations.
  3. Teach team members how to learn for themselves.  The ultimate coaching reward is when your team member reflects on their actions/outcomes and talks through what they will do in the future…WITHOUT any coaching.  Keep this alive by modelling this behavior yourself with your team members.  Process your own successes and failures with your team so learning can be maximized.

What additional strategies have you used to maximize competency development for those you are coaching?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


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.


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