Category Archives: learning

Are You Making These Mistakes in Getting the Results You Want?

At times, we all need to get someone else to make a decision. Whether it’s about signing off on a project, buying our product or service, or making reservations for dinner, results depend on someone  making a decision.

The thing is, they will make the decision their way. They can’t do it any other way, and if they try, they will most likely be unhappy with the result.

Have you seen this to be the case? Have you, or someone close to you, said, “I knew it wasn’t going to work out. I shouldn’t have gone along just because I was talked into it.”

When we really want something for the other person, or need something from them, our good intentions can actually get in the way of how they NEED to make the decision.

Here are three common mistakes that block our effectiveness at helping others make good decisions.

Mistake #1: Putting our attention in the wrong place. When we are so attached to our own agenda, or really working on the best way to present our offer, or just nervous and worrying about how we are doing, our attention is on ourselves and not the other person. This not only keeps us from getting the information we need from them, it also unintentionally conveys that we are not really interested in them. Bad move for gaining trust.

Mistake #2: Being logical. Or, more specifically, using your own logic rather than the logic of the other person. Even if you listen carefully to what the other person wants, you are likely to organize the solution using your own logic rather than the sequence or emphasis that feels natural to them. If you offer services to others, the more you know about how they think and decide, the better service you can provide for them.

Mistake #3. Leading too soon or too much. People who are great at influencing have a wide range of behavioral flexibility. They can move quickly or they can be more deliberate to match the pace of their client. They don’t rush decisions. It’s a lot easier to avoid this mistake if you are avoiding mistakes 1 and 2 – so that you are listening and following the other person’s logic.

Correcting these mistakes shows the other person that you are being responsive to them. If you genuinely want to get decisions that are mutually beneficial, follow their logic and provide the information that they need to make a good decision for them.

Not only will you get better results in the short run, your relationships become stronger over the long run.

Everyday Integrity

How often do we betray ourselves or others?

One of our most highly valued – and highly defended – qualities is integrity. Who doesn’t aspire to wholeness, accountability, and honesty in our actions and relationships?

The interesting aspect of this is how we can hold these intentions and then in daily life slide away from them, mostly outside of our own awareness.

We can ask ourselves: what is so important to us about believing in our own integrity?

We know from childhood on that being in integrity – telling the truth, being trusted, taking actions that lead toward what we care about – feels a lot better than lying, cheating, or breaking promises. It is a significant aspect of self-esteem for most people.

Integrity in the sense of making and keeping one’s agreements is practical as well. When you don’t know that someone will do what they say they will do, it’s very hard to organize, plan, and deliver results.

We may not think we are losing integrity when a deadline passes without acknowledgment, or when we make excuses to ourselves for not doing what we promised.We aren’t living up to our own expectations. Then we tend to get out of integrity with others as well.

Bit by bit, not keeping agreements without renegotiating them nibbles away at both integrity and self-esteem.

I would add that this happens when we are not honest with ourselves about our own feelings and needs. Short-term thinking, such as, “I can let it go this time,” leads us not to tell others when we are hurt or something we care about is being trashed. Or, “I shouldn’t be upset. They didn’t mean to step on my toe.”

We gradually lose the sense of our center and our boundaries. The other person doesn’t know they should remove their foot.

This is not to say that we should confront every single disappointment. We need to know where to draw our own line and what is really not worth fussing about.

If we practice reflection, meditation, or other forms of introspection, we can check our internal compass and guide ourselves back into balance.

Sometimes that will involve being courageous enough to clear up an issue with someone else. Doing it with integrity would mean owning that we are speaking about our own responses and feelings, accounting for our part of the situation, and taking responsibility for what we will do in the future to avoid similar breakdowns.

Or we can decide to release our negative feelings without discussing them with the other person – if we really do release them.

The way that I can tell I that I am out of integrity is when my internal conversation is one of justification. I make a case for the rightness of my position and how the other person is wrong. I am more likely to complain than to make a clear request.

Several of the common justifications to watch out for are ways of discounting oneself, the other, or the situation. For example, “She’s just not able to handle feedback,” so I don’t give it. “I am not good at conflict. I’d rather work it out by myself.” “It won’t do any good anyway. Things around here never change.” They definitely won’t change if no one speaks up.

Real integrity requires a good deal of skill, not just good intentions. As we mature, we need to examine our own abilities and keep expanding them.

One of the main benefits of practicing the Syntax of Effective Communication is that it keeps us in integrity. That means knowing our goals, both the big picture and the details (PLAN). It means meeting other people where they are (LINK). Getting and giving relevant accurate information keeps us in integrity (INFORM). Taking in feedback and making changes is part of our integrity (LEARN). And, as mentioned before, making requests and keeping agreements is central (BALANCE).

Is there something you are holding onto and justifying today, on which you could instead take a new approach?

Who are the role models whose integrity you admire?

What are the potholes you tend to fall into and what are you doing to build the muscles that keep you out of them?

Integrity is a huge subject and there is much more worth exploring. The only time we have to live it is today. May these thoughts inspire and encourage us as we step through today in wholeness, accountability, and above all, honesty with ourselves.

Are You Coachable?

Good Leaders are Good Learners – Are You?
Oh, sure, I am always open to feedback…
Is it true? Or is it hard to ask for and receive feedback? Even if we know it will have value, learning about ourselves is a risky business.

Coachability is a word that struck me the first time I heard it. It puts the responsibility on the client, not on the coach. I had to ask myself, how coachable am I really?

There’s a huge variation in our learning strategies, especially in the arenas of communication and behavior. In school, we were taught many subjects. Only a fortunate few learned the most important thing: how to learn. Many of us learned instead to perform what was asked of us. As adults, we can revisit our learning strategies. We need to reclaim our ability to be self-directed learners who can also accept coaching from others.

What distinguishes a good learning strategy?
It asks questions such as “How can I apply this?” rather than “Where won’t this work?”

Good learning strategies assume that there is a positive intention behind most behavior rather than assuming that people who disagree must be irrational.

Outstanding learners go after feedback: they want to know more about how others respond to them and what they may be missing. Their strategies include not taking the feedback personally, a rare skill. If you can take it as being useful for you and as much about the person who is giving it as about you, you can glean much insight without umbrage.

A logical / analytical option is to use a tool known as an assessment instrument that yields data about workstyles, communication styles, perceptual biases, and so forth. (See the upcoming events column for a program on assessments happening this week in Silicon Valley).

Many of our non-coachable responses are invisible to us. For instance, when I first taught a Transactional Analysis 101 course, I was supervised by my mentor and dear friend Dr. Jo Lewis. As she gave me feedback, I felt I needed to respond to each item, either justifying what I had done or commenting in some way. When she pointed it out, it was glaring.

I was not very coachable, even though I professed to want the feedback (which, by the way, was very valuable). I don’t know where I learned that pattern, and it was very helpful to become aware and stop doing that. Without someone to coach me into being a better learner, I wonder how long I would have hung onto it.

In our three-day seminars, we observe that some people come in with good learning strategies. Others spend the three days working through resistance and beginning to create new strategies. By the third day, hopefully, they are ready to learn.

What is so threatening about learning, and specifically learning to be better communicators?

First of all, the idea that we need to learn something hints that we are not already totally skillful. If you had a family like mine, you grew up with the expectation that if you were smart, you already knew things. Being a good learner wasn’t valued: being a good performer was. There was no graceful way to navigate the learning process and maintain a polished exterior.

I’ve had the good fortune to be in a career where there are many ways to ask and receive interpersonal feedback. Training as a therapist, trainer, coach, all involve much personal interaction in small and large groups and one-on-one. If you have not engaged in process-oriented learning, it’s something to consider. Many leadership programs have a least some component of this kind of process. This is embedded in Syntax leadership courses, and is more fully developed in coaching and culture change engagements.

In collaboration, someone will always have more expertise than you in one or another aspect of the task you are working on together. If you have a knee-jerk defense or know-it-all reaction, how helpful is that? Somehow, being a smart kid didn’t necessarily equip us for learning from our teammates. Unless we focus on it, we may not even recognize we are creating a less than optimal space for learning.

Learning about our behavior and the choices we have moment-to-moment is as present as air and often as invisible.

Being a learner means being willing to be open about the trials and errors along the way. Learning as a communicator means seeking out coaching from peers, a professional coach, or a mentor. We do NOT know the impact of our behavior without feedback from others.

When a leader is willing to learn openly, and can receive feedback authentically and graciously, he or she is demonstrating true leadership. Role modeling is the most powerful form of permission for others to be open about their learning as well.

Changes drive much of our learning. All of us are learning like crazy these days — the new Facebook and Twitter pages, Go-to-Webinar, your new smartphone–and who knows what other emerging platforms will pull us in next.

Whatever the specific technology, learning to use it so that it enhances mutual understanding is one of the great social learning assignments of our time.

The amazing thing is how much we actually do absorb and utilize from the masses of stimuli out there.

We can expand our ability to learn throughout our lives. They say that people who are too old to learn were probably always too old to learn. Instead, seek out ways to be consciously coachable and lead the way.

Keeping Up Our Idealism

The first of the year inspires us to reach toward our hopes and dreams. Where will we be a year from now – what will be accomplished, what will have changed, how satisfied will we be that we have lived as we want to?

Idealism provides motivation. It is a great asset, a source of energy for day-to-day activities. Healthy idealists can let go and shift focus when outcomes differ from expectations, finding other ways to move forward.

A strategy I use to maintain idealism and motivation is to make little, ongoing choices that add up to better life balance. Our mindsets are held in place by our habits of thought and expression. When we consciously adjust our “syntax” we are applying our personal power to move toward our more idealistic worldview.

Today I caught myself writing an email reply that answered more than was asked. I didn’t need to volunteer more information. One word would do the job. Making similar choices this year will save me time and extraneous stress.
It was an adjustment in my personal “anticipate and solve every problem” syntax.

When my coaching clients try out a slight change and hear the difference, such as changing “but” to “and,” or practicing a gracious way to say no to a request, the positive results offer immediate reinforcement.

We can keep depositing credits into our “change the world”: account, sometimes with little noticeable effect, sometimes turning a whole negative situation into a positive one.

I’ll still set audacious goals and aim for new frontiers of improving communication on a larger scale. When I can see, hear, and feel results today, I am motivated to stay on course.

As you head toward your goals and ideals for 2011, what communication practices do you want to embed in your personal syntax? What specific action can you take today to move forward on that path?

What Can Communication Coaching Do For You?

Especially at work, what we communicate is who we are. As leaders and co-workers, we enhance or detract from the success of our enterprise with the communication competence we demonstrate. This is a skill set that has to grow to keep pace with complexity.
Working with a communication coach is a high-leverage way to accomplish several objectives at once:
-dedicating time and focus to this crucial area of your work life
-learning new skills tailored to your style and your goals
-and, perhaps most important, having an observer who can give you feedback and a place to test your thinking.

Many well-known C-level executives and other leaders rely on coaches, particularly to prepare for communication situations. If you want to reduce the stress and optimize your traction in communicating, it is likely that your HR folks or your department’s budget can provide funds for coaching.

No longer seen as remedial, communication coaching is fuel for career advancement and business success. For entrepreneurs, the return on investment is easy to measure through direct results.

Some criteria for selecting a communication coach:
– they make a clear contract for a number of sessions and / or a measurable outcome
– they do not have a conflicting relationship with you, i.e. they are not your boss or your best friend
– they are able to explain their approach, the communication models or assessments they use, and how this is applicable to your goals
-they will have an introductory conversation with you to determine best fit.

One of the criteria for choosing a coach is what you can learn from him or her. Coaches who are skilled with communication models help you put them into practice on a daily basis.

We all have blind spots, or simply preferences that don’t match up with those of co-workers or customers. Coaching can help prevent breakdowns or help us learn from them. An extra benefit is getting a reality check from a trusted advisor. Priceless.

We live in an amazingly complex world and an information-rich environment. The more intelligence you bring to it, the more you gain. Communication coaching helps you focus on what matters most to reach your goals. If you’re ready, let’s talk!

Competent Coaches, Diverse Clientele – an evening with NorCal Professional Coaches and Mentors Association (PCMA)

When I was invited to speak at the San Francisco meeting of the PCMA, I didn’t know what to expect. Would these be business or life coaches, backgrounds in business, therapy, training? Are they really practicing their craft or wannabees talking to each other? Would they be open or more competitive? Are they steeped in a particular model and interpreting the world through that lens?

The experience of the evening was a very pleasant and interesting one. The volunteers running the meeting greeted me and helped me get all the equipment situated, making sure I had a place at the dinner table. Lively conversations were going on at every table. Some members were continuing discussions that had begun in pre-meeting interest groups, including a learning lab on neuroscience with friend and colleague Janet Crawford.

A few familiar faces appeared and we renewed our acquaintance. Each person with whom I spoke knew at least several facets of coaching and were eager to share material. Among other topics, we touched on Somatic Coaching, Five Rhythms and Strozzi forms of movement awareness, Spiral Dynamics, differentiated from Five Dynamics, the Kolbe Conative Index, the Enneagram, and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. These people had a broad understanding of the field as well as their specialties.

When we did activities as part of my program, people engaged enthusiastically. They shared ahas and insightful questions. I felt comfortable in the community of peers.

Early in my talk, I asked the group what kinds of clients they were serving. Answers included
-business leaders
-healthcare professionals
-county and local government employees
-federal Health and Human Services employees
-sales professionals
and a few more.

Even in what we are calling a down economy, coaches inside and outside organizations are assisting clients in many fields. This form of learning and development, introduced in many workplaces beginning in the late 90’s, has apparently taken root.

With the overload of information and stimuli, increasing global and technical acceleration, and pressure-filled personal lives, one-on-one coaching appears to be a time-value activity that keeps people afloat. Rather than the remedial solution that used to signal a likely firing, coaching is a perk for the upwardly mobile and the people who are being stretched thin by expanding responsibilities.

It is a healthy sign for our society and organizational cultures if this is so. Many more executives, managers, and HRD departments would do well to take advantage of the available resources.

Vetting a coach is a skill set in itself, and should not be taken lightly. Competence and chemistry are very important. Potential coach clients should use references and their intuition in early conversations to determine whether a coach’s offer is right for them.

With this caveat in mind, I have to say that the roomful of people who attended my talk this week struck me as highly competent, clear on what they could offer, learning from and with each other, and probably a great referral source for people in the SF Bay area ready to check out working with a coach.

I am available to refer prospective clients to coaches based on a personal knowledge of various people’s work. Contact me at and I will be glad to provide names of excellent Bay Area and East Coast coaches.