Cheryl offers: Have you heard the news that Mr. Goodwrench, the hunky guy in blue, but never dirty overalls who supposedly could fix anything on a GM car is retiring? He’s not that old either since he started his career in 1974. However, if he was about 30 when he started that would make him 66, so maybe it’s about time he got a rest. It seems GM has opted for a more gender neutral brand strategy by using the term “Certified” in front of their 4 major brands: Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. I think this is a pretty smart marketing move on their part. With women making the decisions on over 65% of the major household expenditures, it would seem that appealing to their wants and needs through language is a good idea. And let’s face it; most of the times I’ve taken my car to a dealership, the result certainly fell into the category of major household expense. Somehow being “certified” sounds more professional, implies more training, deeper expertise, and possibly there’s even a test at the end to ensure some level of proficiency. In the book, Women Want More by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, the authors clearly define areas where women’s wants and needs are not being met. I’m celebrating this change not only because GM might be making moves to meet some of those needs, but also because one more male brand association has been traded for a more inclusive gender neutral term. And that’s important for another reason. In today’s world, many of the men working do not look like Mr. Goodwrench. They are Latino, Asian, African American, on and on. This is not just a good move; it’s a great move towards inclusiveness that more accurately reflects our world. Thanks GM!
Cheryl offers: This is embarrassing to admit, but I’m going to do it. I just tried to register for First Friday Book Synopsis only to see the computer screen read “SOLD OUT”. I saw this on my computer screen and thought “What? How can that be?” Now for those of you who are not familiar with this event, it occurs every month on the first Friday, just like the name states. Therefore, I know this happens each month and since I attended last month’s event, I even knew which books were going to be showcased tomorrow. I’m in a real pickle here folks. I’ve been promoting this with some key executives at my company and there are 3 who want to attend tomorrow along with me. How did this happen I ask myself? I found solace in Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind. When Pink describes the value of telling stories and how much longer we all remember stories than mere data, he says “Story represents a pathway to understanding that doesn’t run through the left side (that would be the logical side) of the brain.” Oh perfect! I was telling myself the story “I know I need to do this and I know I can wait until the last minute. It’s OK because it’s always been OK.” If I had thought about this logically, I would have taken action to ensure things happened smoothly. Lesson learned again: Be careful who I listen to, especially when it’s myself!
Sara here: I have gotten some response to the post I offered about coaching. I’ve offended some and for that, I apologize. That is why this is titled “apology/apologia.” It is to say that I am sorry for causing reaction – and I would offer my argument to support what I believe about coaching with all sincerity.
I used the term “judgement” and that was a poor choice of words. Let me be clear that I didn’t mean that anyone was “judgmental” in working with other people. Language is a tricky thing. I suspect we often don’t communicate by speaking the same language.
Let me take another run at this. I was talking about the relationship that should exist between a coach and a client. I firmly believe that a coach has the responsibility to remain neutral toward client and client’s situation. A coach’s responsibility is to assess rather than vote. I substitute vote for judgement because I mean taking a position (rather than being judgmental). By refusing to take a position, the coach can be curious about the effectiveness of a client in ways that are outside the coach’s experience. Language does make creating the distinction challenging.
By the way – there are weaknesses in the world and in people, no denying. However, the job of the coach is not in the area of weakness. What differentiates a coach from other helping professions is that they to assess how the client sees themselves, help them expand their perspectives and open clients up to their own blind spots. Ergo, the difference between fixing what’s broken vs discovering new paths. In fact, in the world of neuropsychology: the work of Daniel Goleman, David Rock and others is reinforcing this understanding of coaching and its effectiveness in helping people change…creating new neuropathways rather than trying to redirect old ones.
Cheryl offers: I’m reading a darn good book these days; it’s called Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds. I’ve known Marcia for several years now and she’s quite the fireball. She caught my attention when I read “Generally women aren’t trying to prove they can do something difficult in spite of their gender; being a woman factors very little into their reasons for proving their worth.” As I thought back over my life when I tackled some pretty interesting challenges myself, in my case I knew she was right on target.
I started my college education at Southern Methodist University when my last child left for college. That was a challenge because I was in the Executive MBA program with no undergraduate degree. They let a few in now and then and I was one of the lucky ones. I always wanted to go to college and never had the stars align until then. I never gave being a woman a thought as I considered getting that degree; I just knew I wanted it. I moved to Zurich Switzerland a few years later on an international assignment with IBM to lead a major transformation effort. I didn’t agree to be away from my family for a year and take on that assignment because I was a woman; it was because it was so darn challenging and it sounded like the most fun imaginable. Later as I left IBM and retired to become an entrepreneur, I embraced that new life without ever thinking I might be leaping from corporate America to entrepreneur-land because I was a woman. It was because I was ready for a new way of life.
Marcia has managed to see women as few others in my humble opinion. There are a lot more books these days being written about women. Marcia has managed to capture insights and perspectives no one else has possibly imagined; and yet, when you read her words, you quickly realize how they are exactly what you’ve known but were never quite able to describe.
Cheryl offers: I was driving down Northwest Highway the other day and saw a sign outside a Methodist church that read “No perfect people allowed.” I was struck by the simplicity of the message immediately. And then I remembered all the times I might have thought I qualified for that category of perfect people. Ouch! Over my lifetime, I would guess it’s happened more than I’d ever want to admit. And I must confess, it seemed to have happened at an early age. My mother loves to tell the story of my first day of school. When she asked how I liked it she swears I replied, “It was OK, but I’m not going back until all those other kids catch up with me.” I believe she was so astounded at my answer that it never occurred to her to teach me a much needed immediate lesson in humility.
I’ve read a lot of books over the years and most of them have been about leadership. I have learned the value of practicing humility regularly and to remind myself frequently that is it a necessary ingredient to a more peaceful and purposeful life. While the title of the book is somewhat ironic given their current economic woes, I’m reminded of the words from If Aristotle Ran General Motors by Tom Morris. “There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.” Somewhere in this quote I get the sense this means there are no perfect human beings and being able to embrace that thought brings its own sense of nobility. I’d like to think so because it means there might be hope for me yet!
“One Job of the Coach is to Correct,” says Randy – “I Don’t Agree,” says Cheryl… Time for Some Dialogue
a : a large usually closed four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage having doors in the sides and an elevated seat in front for the driver
a : a private tutor
b : one who instructs or trains <an acting coach>; especially : one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a competitive sport and directs team strategy <a football coach>
So, the other day at Take Your Brain to Lunch, I am in mid-presentation, and I say something like this: “the purpose of a coach is to tell me what I am doing wrong.” I referred to athletic coaches, people hired by the likes of Martina Navritilova and other “individual” stars. I am convinced that such an athlete cannot watch himself/herself, and thus needs a coach to watch, find the flaws, and correct. I used to play tennis (back in the days when rackets were made of wood, tennis balls were white, and the tiebreaker had not yet been adopted), and I know that’s what my coaches did for me. They saw my flaws, pointed them out, and drilled correction into me.
And I got better. (I would have gotten much, much better if I had practiced they way my coach told me to. But that’s another story).
Anyway, Cheryl Jensen, my blogging team member and the leader of Take Your Brain to Lunch, who is a personal coach, tells me I’m wrong. She says that a coach should not look for areas to correct, but instead should… well, let her tell you.
By the way, I disagree with Cheryl. Thus, this dialogue…
Cheryl, your turn.
As much as I try to avoid ever correcting people in public for fear of embarrassing them or damaging a relationship, I did indeed disagree publicly with Randy last week. When we traded time at the microphone, I offered a very different perspective. Randy is correct in that I am a professionally trained coach by The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and the International Coach Federation (ICF), the governing body of professional coaching. Our official definition of coaching is “Coaching is a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Another cornerstone idea from our CTI training is “People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.” This means coaching is not about fixing what’s broken. It is about helping the client look and find what’s already within and then directing that talent, energy, and focus towards their goals. There are 3 main reasons I coach: to facilitate learning, create movement towards client goals so they can improve their performance and enjoyment from life which of course includes work. So the whole idea of looking for what’s broken and then offering advice is totally counter culture from professional coaching to me. Rather than offer answers, we offer questions for the client to explore their areas of interest. Rather than offer advice, we ask questions to create options the client wants to implement. Rather than assign responsibility, we offer opportunities that will facilitate additional learning and new insights.
Cheryl offers: October’s HBR article “Why Succession Shouldn’t Be a Horse Race” describes how Xerox’s former CEO Anne Mulcahy successfully identified, developed and eventually passed the CEO baton to Ursula Burns, the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company while also marking the first ever woman-to-woman succession. What was most interesting was how Anne deliberately worked to avoid Jack Welch’s famous departure when two of the three top candidates left with him once they learned Jeff Immelt had gotten the job. She said “I don’t believe in having people face off against each other for the CEO job in a classic horse race.” Kudos to her on two fronts: first for recognizing that losing valuable talent in this day and age is not good business and secondly for seeing collaboration is better for the business than competition when putting the best person in the job. GE lost 3 very talented employees when Jack left. Anne managed to retain her 3 top contenders after Ursula was named CEO, although one has since retired. This article reinforced a message I read in Women and Leadership by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah Rhode. In chapter 9 written by Marie C. Wilson, she notes “We need to fuel each other’s ambition, to give women the encouragement they need, and the courage embedded in that word. With our help, they can and will step forward and say, “I’m here. I can do this, and I want to lead.” This was written in 2007, just about the time Anne and Ursula were starting to write business history. Those who support the laws of natural attraction would say, “Of course!”
Cheryl offers: On the front page of Sunday September 19’s New York Daily News and the Wall Street Journal was a picture of several women in Afghanistan. They were dressed in blue veils and garments to identify them as voting poll administrators. These women were there even though the Taliban had threatened to harm anyone participating in the voting process.” WOW” was all I could think as I stared at the picture. These are truly brave women! It occurred to me today as Randy Mayeux delivered a book synopsis of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein that the stories about Florence Nightingale in that book could also be about the women in this picture. You see, Florence didn’t listen to conventional wisdom nor heed warnings from others. She made history by following her passion about what she knew but couldn’t necessarily prove. She was one of those “obsessive people who have the skill, motivation, energy, and bullheadedness to do whatever is necessary to move them (new ideas) forward: to persuade, inspire, seduce, cajole, enlighten, touch hearts, alleviate fears, shift perceptions, articulate meanings and artfully maneuver through systems.” The only word missing from fully describing the Afghanistan women in that picture was courage; the kind of courage that inspires and motivates. None were likely named Florence, and yet they share more than a name – they share her spirit. WOW, am I lucky to have witnessed this!
Cheryl offers: Have you ever had one of those experiences where you complete something and think “Well, that was OK, but it didn’t quite hit the mark; and I’m not sure why I feel this way?” Well, it happened to me with the blog a few days ago by the same title, only it was part 1 and I didn’t realize it at the time. Something kept bothering me about that blog. I felt like I was missing a point, something really important. Then it hit me out of the blue while I was not really thinking about it at all. What was missing is this. The phrase “Help me understand” is about having the person asking the question understands or learn more. Or as is often the case, it is about them having an idea of what the answer should be and seeing if by talking about it more, you can figure out what they think you should know. The focus of the conversation is on the person stating the phrase. In a true coaching relationship, it’s the opposite! The coach does ask questions, but not for their own education on the topic. In fact, when we train leaders to be coaches, we direct them to avoid the topic and keep the conversation focused on the coachee. True coaching questions are designed to facilitate the learning for the person being asked. This is the direct opposite of the phrase “Help me understand” intent when the learning is asker centered. This is what was tickling me from my unconscious. In a true coaching relationship, the focus of the listening, the questions, and the energy is all on the person being coached. So, when a person says they want to have a coaching conversation and then ask to be educated, just know this is NOT a coaching conversation. Maybe this is why many people are insulted or put off by the phrase.
And you know how that came to me out of the blue? I bet everyone reading this has had this experience. Annie McKee discusses this in Resonant Leadership. Our brains need to rest so they can be truly creative. When we rush about working frantically, then try to think clearly, most of us find it difficult to easily select that best answer. When we allow ourselves down time and rest, our brains have the energy and space for creativity. Rest is essential to great leadership.