Newsletter 612 – A Fascinating Fable About Coaching

COACHING CONVERSATION 1It is rare for me to read an entire book in one afternoon but that was my experience with the just-released revised edition of Brian Souza’s The Weekly Coaching Conversation: A Business Fable. Most of this is the story about a sales manager’s bar room conversations with a coach. Souza set out to write a story that was great, rather than one that’s merely good. Its main message reduces to this: compare most managers with the world-class leaders of high-performance teams and the difference will not be the leaders’ intelligence, strategic vision, or operational prowess. The fundamental, research-supported difference primarily comes down to the leaders’ approach. They don’t act like managers; they act like coaches.

Souza shows that the best leaders in business (and presumably in education, ministry, and sports) focus as much on developing people as they focus on refining their skills. He stresses that “coaching is not something that you, as a manager, must do. A coach is someone that you, as a leader, must become.”

Recently I’ve been studying the art of good story telling and the power of stories to motivate people and stimulate change. I’ve become fascinated with how good writers or speakers tell their stories and use these to teach lessons that have a lasting impact. Of course nobody has done this better then Jesus. But modern writers like Ken Blanchard, Patrick Lencioni, Donald Miller and others (that you are encouraged to recommend) have the ability to impact even people like me who rarely read fiction.

At one place in his story Brian Souza discusses managers who withhold feedback until the annual employee evaluations. Suppose a football coach (or a fitness trainer) did this only once a year. How effective would this be? If you want to impact and build people there needs to be coaching at least weekly. Research supports much of this. Problem is, most managers and trainers don’t know how to coach effectively. And they have no idea how to turn others into coaches. What a challenge for those among us with a commitment to training others to manage, teach and lead through coaching.

Clearly I would recommend this book. There is nothing Christian in the story but the message is challenging. Become a coach if you want to be a manager or a leader. What is your reaction? Please comment, especially if you have read the Weekly Coaching Conversation book

Newsletter 611 – Are we Getting Better at What we do?

getting better 1Professional counseling does not occupy any of my time thee days but that’s where I have most training, where I am licensed by the state, and the subject of much of my writing and teaching. Not surprising, then, Psychotherapy Networker (PT) magazine goes to the top of my reading pile whenever it arrives. The articles on therapy have surprising relevance both for mental health professionals and for non-counselors like many who read this newsletter. The March/April issue addresses an issue that we all could consider profitably: We are older as a discipline, profession or individual. But is there any evidence that we are better? Stated differently, “Do our old ways fit the new times?” The PT answer seems to be “not much.”

 

  • First we need to remember that established methods that have worked for years are not necessarily bad just because they are old.
  • At times we all succumb to fads that claim to be revolutionary breakthroughs. (Mindfulness and evidence-based practices are among the most recent.) Therapists aren’t the only ones “succumbing to the allure of novel procedures and fancy theories, particularly those that promise quick and dramatic cures” and changes. In time most fads fade and we rush to something new.
  • Despite all our approaches, methods, theories, and training seminars, this conclusion emerges as “one of the most robust research findings in the psychological literature: all therapies…produce the same level of results, regardless of the particular insights they promulgate.”
  • “We need to embrace what our research tells us: a professional relationship organized around empathy, genuineness, respect, openness, congruence, collaboration, and goal consensus helps people change.”
  • Cultural awareness counts a lot. Mary Piper writes that the main area where “we’re failing right is taking into account the impact of the larger culture on all of us…. The kind of verbal, cognitive, come-and-sit-down-in-an-office [or talk on the telephone or Internet] approach is deeply unsuited to the poor and underserved populations that we’re ignoring.” Overall our work “remains largely a white, upper-middle-class phenomenon.” Often we fail to recognize and understand the growing elderly population or the young emerging generations where we’re not connecting.
  • No one of us can connect with everybody but we must not forget that we work and lead in community.

 

This picture is not limited to mental health professionals. For all of us the question remains. We are getting older but are we getting better? Please comment.

Newsletter 610 – Anticipating the Future by Looking at the Present

future 2King Saul was not the first person to consult a medium or fortune-teller (1 Samuel 28.) Efforts to predict the future using sorcery and fortune-tellers have been around for centuries and even interest some Christians despite the Bible’s condemnation of these practices. In the church where I grew up, visiting preachers would sometimes conduct prophecy conferences where parts of the Bible, Revelation especially, would be interpreted in ways that seemed to mix biblical exegesis with preacher speculation about current and future events.

Today we take a more secular, quasi-scientific approach. We carefully look at trends in the present and make speculations about how these might play out in the future. Often these predictions are wrong, especially in an era of rapid and unpredictable change. But sometimes we can predict accurately enough to plan ahead wisely. Best example is the predicted development of well-studied diseases. Business magazines and newspapers often give predictions like those in the April 27, 2015 Wall Street Journal where experts made predictions on subjects including small business, the economy, mass marketing, retirement, religion, virtual reality gaming, health care and even sex. Here are three examples that might interest you:

  • “The Internet of the future will be everywhere—and the more people who have it, the more important it will become…. Instead of seeking out the Internet, we’ll be surrounded by it. Instead of extracting data from it, we’ll be fed a constant stream of curated, personalized information to help us solve problems and live better.” If we can strike a balance between caution and convenience, the spread of connected devices will have a profound impact on the way we do just about everything.”
  • What about books including textbooks and other printed communication? It’s likely that reading will always remain but the format will be different. Future books will be more on electronic screens than on paper, despite the tastes of maybe dwindling numbers of bibliophiles (people who avidly read, collect and/or have a great love for books.)
  • Education, especially higher education will survive and thrive but it will continue to change dramatically. Information dumps and the “sage on the stage” will fade further. Teaching methods and models will shift to fit our increasingly digital world. Interaction and on-line activities will increase. Universities that thrive will have no alternative except to do teaching online and offer quality courses. What does this say about long sermons by “talking head” preachers?

Surely you have reactions to this. Please comment.

Newsletter 609 – Can the Blue Like Jazz Guy Impact Us?

Have you read Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz? Probably most of Scary Close 1my friends would answer yes, especially those who are younger. This might be described as an easy-going book on Christian spirituality written by a young guy who definitely was not traditional. I read the book when it first appeared and followed up by reading most of Miller’s subsequent volumes. I gave away copies of his Million Miles in a Thousand Years and most who read it liked it.

Last month when I read Miller’s latest book, Scary Close, it was clear that the now 43-year-old writer had matured. I missed the laid-back nature of Blue Like Jazz but was inspired as the author chronicled the journey leading up to his recent marriage. This is an honest book about one man learning what it means to grow in intimacy. For quotations from the book do an Internet search for Scary close quotes.

Donald MillerIn the midst of my reading I watched a video interview with Donald Miller and discovered that he has become a businessman, running seminars about how to tell good stories and use stories on websites and in business. His web site (www.storylineblog.com) even offers a free ebook titled How to Tell a Story. Miller believes that stories can strengthen whatever work we do and enable us to be better communicators. Recently I’ve been learning that good teaching, counseling, coaching, leading, and probably ministry often are about using stories and helping others to rewrite the stories of their lives. Scary Close really is a book about personal and engaging stories that can have an impact. This author who originally challenged and amused me has changed into more of a teacher who can guide us all. He makes references to the Bible and is not afraid to write about Jesus.

Please tell us how stories have impacted you or your friends. If you’ve read Scary Close or other Miller books please let us know your reactions by leaving a comment.

One last thing: A big thank-you to all who responded to my request for input last week. If you intended to comment and did not, there still is time to shoot me a message. I’ll give a summary later.

A Request from Gary Collins

QuestionsThis is a note to you who receive my newsletters every week. Usually each week I share something that comes from what I’ve been reading, often about present trends, leadership, the future, coaching and sometimes counseling. I plan to keep going with this approach.

But a close friend has challenged me to write and reflect on topics some of you might find interesting – sharing from my perspective or maybe about what I know now. So I would like you to engage in a social experiment with me on this blog. If you could select a topic or issue for me to write about in a future People Builder Newsletter post, what would that topic be?

Please click on the comment button below and post two pieces of information: (1) a brief description of the topic that especially interests you, and (2) a suggested title for my post on that topic.

I look forward to hearing from you, maybe today. I might not respond to everybody but you can be sure I will read every comment.

Thanks everybody.

Newsletter 608 – Update on Having a Mentor and Being a Mentor

mentoring 4Do you ever get tired reading or hearing about mentoring? It’s no news that professional organizations, business and academic communities, innumerable churches and countless youth leaders all emphasize mentoring and have mentoring programs. Each knows the value of a person with experience and skill sharing with those who are beginners or less advanced in their life and career journeys.

Harvard Business Review (April, 2015) shows the value of CEOs and other leaders having mentors where age differences are less important than differences in expertise and experience. Earl Creps’ 2008 book Reverse Mentoring expresses what many mature leaders already know: we can mentor younger people but should never underestimate the power of being mentored by next-generation people who can teach us. Consider the kids who teach their elders the intricacies of social media and other technology.

The HBR article discusses mentoring from high profile CEOs but reports research on why these same leaders often need and profit from being mentored by experienced leaders, sometimes including those in a different field of work or with cultural perspectives that differ from their mentees. On occasion someone asks how I seem to keep a younger, forward-looking attitude. Primarily it’s because of the bright, emerging, innovative younger people (students especially) who essentially mentor me even though we rarely use that M-word. Consider this, based in part on the Harvard research:

  •  Why should successful leaders seek to be mentored? Everyone can benefit from fresh perspectives that come from role models of any age and experienced guides who stimulate new approaches, ideas, and perspectives.
  • What are the benefits of being a mentor to others? Research shows that mentors often experience fulfillment, the satisfaction of having a personal impact, and the benefit of learning from their mentees.
  • What seems to be the best and most preferred approach to mentoring? It’s is not working through guidebooks, telling mentees what to do, or even asking good coaching questions. The method preferred by both parties is storytelling; mentors sharing from their own experiences including triumphs and failures. For many years I’ve talked weekly with a younger psychologist-friend who says he has learned most from watching me deal with disappointments and set-backs.

Are you involved in being mentored as well as being a mentor? What are some of your experiences and observations? Do you need or have a mentor? Please comment.

Newsletter 607 – When Life and Goal-setting are Disrupted

Last December I took an on-line seminar that promised to make this my best year ever. The main message was about setting goals for the year along with deadlines and plans for achieving success. There was not much new in the presentations but the information was solid and similar to what coaches, teachers, and counselors urge for others and Detours1try to implement in themselves. Perhaps not surprising, the seminar seemed to assume that each of us is in control of our own lives and careers. Overlooked was the fact that goal-setting can fly out the window when we encounter the crises, unexpected health issues, career disruptions, or other unpredictable detours and roadblocks that are the reality of our lives.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (April 7, 2015) reported research studies showing how physical health and mental well-being are both impacted by the ways we frame life crises and shattered dreams. In one study adults were asked to tell their life stories. Each was evaluated in terms of several themes that emerged and were described with somewhat confusing academic titles. The first of these we might prefer to call sense of control in which subjects felt able to influence and respond to life events. The next, connection means how much people are in contact and association with others. Third, positive perspectives refer to the degree to which we can take negative experiences and find positive sides to our new realities. People with these characteristics had lower levels of depression, higher levels of life satisfaction, and greater psychological and social well-being when compared with those who focused on self-pity, bitterness, and whatever was negative.

This reframing is central to what have been called personal narratives: the stories we tell ourselves and try to live out, especially when our life-plans and goal-setting are barricaded. In addition to the sense of control, connection, and positive perspectives, other research found that personal narratives help most when we:

  • Openly acknowledge what has happened.
  • Accept the new realities,
  • Reframe the ways in which we view life circumstances and events (sometime bad things can have positive outcomes,)
  • Resist dwelling on the negative,
  • Determine to change whatever is changeable, and
  • Believe and live out our new life stories.

Have you or your associates had experiences where this applies? Where does God fit into this analysis? Please comment.

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