Change, Priorities, and Possibility Walk Into a Bar…

close up of water splashing in drinking glass
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But in this scenario there is no punch line, there is just a punch to the gut. You see, for the last year and a half I have worked for an unbelievable leader, done meaningful work, and been part of a supportive and flexible team. Then last week it was announced we are merging with one of our competitors and our headquarters is moving to Texas. The good news is I have been in this scenario/bar before – the bad news is I hadn’t planned on returning, and definitely not so soon. So as I look to the new year, I will be raising my glass to change, priorities, and possibilities and making the most of this cocktail.

Managing Change.  You can’t actually manage change- you can only manage how you show up in it. I had the opportunity in my last acquisition to create a leadership blog and training series on Leading Through Transition. I am grateful I can dust that off and share it with Abra leaders.  I am excited to be part of our integration team and to learn some new skills through this merger. I am appreciative that I have time to figure out what’s next for me. I don’t believe things happen for a reason but I do believe you can be the reason opportunities happen when the unexpected comes your way.

Prioritize Priorities. I had already been toying with making “Important” my word for 2019. What is really important to me? Is that where I am spending my time? Did I treat each day and each person with importance? I love the 7F Wheel by Paul Batz and the Good Leadership team, and rely on my family, friends, and fitness to make my wheel- and life- roll. This change may cause a bump to my finances and my future, but if I have faith, have fun, and have my family, friends, and fitness I know I will be ok. As Stephen Covey wisely said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Invite Possibility.  It has only been 7 days since the merger was announced. There are many possible possibilities ahead. As a planner – and let’s face it, control freak- I like to know the options so I can start building around them. I rationally know the short term will be ambiguous, so am choosing to focus on the long term. What do I want to do 5 to 10 years from now? What can I be doing today to start that journey? Who can I connect to and learn from?  The new year is always a good time to invite possibility and to imagine what else can be ahead.

My husband and I love wine and love touring vineyards. I really like this quote by wine maker Allen Sichel: “Wine is a living thing. It is made, not only of grapes and yeasts, but of skill and patience. When drinking it, remember that to the making of that wine has gone, not only the labor and care of years, but the experience of centuries.” Magic happens when you can combine skill, patience, and care. So here is a toast to change and to resetting priorities and reimagining possibilities in the new year.

 

What Great Coaches Do

 

Landry quote

Last week I attended the Inside Out Development coaching workshop. It was a great opportunity to reground myself, an experienced coach, in the core principles of coaching and to think about how to make the idea of coaching accessible and relevant to leaders at all levels of my current organization. We all can think of great coaches in our lives (yes Janice Payton I am thinking of you!). When you ask yourself what impact they had on you, you will likely think of things like, he/she pushed me harder than I thought I could go. He/she believed in me. He/she gave me confidence and recognition. I don’t think anyone looks back and says my best coach pushed me to work every night and weekend. Believed PowerPoint was an art form. Gave me the confidence that I could be triple booked most of the time. Yet all of us, even with the best of intentions, can fall prey to the reality of workplace pressures and timelines. So what can we do to make sure we stay focused on coaching vs. tasks? After my coaching workshop I am recommitting to (1) asking vs. telling  (2) staying curious and (3) business KPIs for coaching.

Asking vs. Telling.  Think about how many questions you are asked in the course of a day. From “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” to “Can you help me with this report?” to “How should we plan our (volunteer) fundraiser this year?” And like the answer ninjas we are, we usually whip out solutions as fast as the questions are coming. It may feel efficient, but as Ken Blanchard points out in the One Minute Manager, what you are actually doing is positioning yourself as a professional “monkey collector.” All those monkeys– questions/problems others have–get lobbed your way, and you now have a new collection of monkeys to solve for- in addition to your original to do list.  So what if instead of telling, we focused on asking? In this video, Alan Fine, the founder of Inside Out Development, discusses shifting from fixing the gap we see in others, to focusing on closing the gap between our telling and asking. Fine encourages leaders to build this practice by using three simple questions: What’s working? Where are you getting stuck? What could you do differently? By starting with these questions before jumping to telling, you teach your team to reflect, empower them to solve their own problems, and free yourself from the monkeys.

Staying curious. We all have reactions to situations and people. Just saying certain names or topics, particularly in our current political times, can evoke a strong reaction and facial expression. But what if we could stay curious instead of jumping to conclusions? When you are at work, and a certain name pops up on your phone, you could roll your eyes and think,”Oh great, what could Joe want now? I’m sure he’s going to blame me that we missed our milestone.” Or, you could say, “Joe and I both know we missed that milestone. I wonder what we could do to move forward? I wonder what perspective he has on what we could have done differently?” Setting your mindset to a curious state opens you up to possibility and changes the tone of your interaction before it even begins. It takes a second to make this change, but pays off in spades.

Business KPIs for coaching. Coaching has a mixed reputation. Many HR people love it because it is good for retention, engagement, and development. Many business leaders see it is as an expense, time off the job, and squishy. If we are honest, both are true. I am lucky to be tasked with building a coaching and leadership development program from the ground up. As we develop our strategy, we will be talking about increased productivity, improved customer service scores, and higher turns as our measures of success. Of course I hope to see improved retention, engagement and development as well. But those won’t be the focus in our design or metrics.  Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not a sometimes thing. It’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Substitute winning and losing with your business’s top initiative, and ask yourself if you are being relentless in getting to that end goal, and how your initiatives help your teams to build the right habits.

Coaching, like so many other elements of leadership, is talked about and trained on, but hard to put into everyday practice. In a busy world that rewards expertise and confidence, telling is a natural reaction. Making judgments helps us take shortcuts. Focusing on our function vs. our organization is efficient. But it can’t build your team’s capabilities or your organization’s long term success. Sloane Stone was ranked 83 before the US Open, and walked away a champion, the third player ranked outside the top 10 to win the U.S. Open since computer rankings started in 1975. Her coach, Kamau Murray, attributes her success to her hard work, her focus, and their honest relationship. “It’s a progression. It’s not like a one-hit wonder where she won a grand slam prior to winning anything else. If you look at her trajectory, it’s been a line of progression, it hasn’t been like a spike. When you have that kind of development, it’s more sustainable than a flash in the pan.” Let’s build sustainable wins for our business by building a coaching practice on asking vs. telling, staying curious, and one that is all about the business.