Patricia Bonner, William Pote, Abigail Jean-Louis, Patricia Lee
LLG-4: Principles of Coaching and Consulting
ODL 340 - Coaching and Consulting
April 17, 2016
Principles of Coaching and Consulting
Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
Team Open Will has learned a great deal about coaching during our clinics and throughout our reading and video material. The case clinics provided an abundance of eye opening take-aways. For starters, working together as a team is amazing because we are all so different, and this allows us to experience a variety of different communication styles. It also helps us to improve our focus and listening skills. We’ve been learning to slow down, be present, and take it all in.
The case clinics were structured in a manner that provided us the opportunity to help others work through personal or professional concerns. In short, we acted as “coach” for someone with an issue they felt they couldn’t immediately resolve on their own.
By the time we completed our clinics, we came to the realization that coaching is much more than giving advice. Each case giver went into the “coaching session” seeking tactical solutions or strategies to accomplish a mission. However, we all soon realized that the concerns went much deeper than initially expected. The best way to summarize our experience is to present post-clinic notes that we used after we completed the clinics. Those notes are as follows:
The common theme of our clinics has less to do with facts, action steps and functionality, and more to do with feelings.
- CASE CLINIC 1 – Vera: the underlying theme is centered around how Vera fears being undervalued and is seeking ways to reverse that
- CASE CLINIC 2 – Penelope: underlying theme is fear and apprehension to sell a service that could result in feeling embarrassed.
- CASE CLINIC 3 – Buster: underlying theme is mitigating his staff’s fear of job cuts and instability throughout his manufacturing company.
- CASE CLINIC 4 - Abigail: underlying theme is fear of conflict
It’s becoming evident that all sorts of feelings are driving our clinics. Key words include:
- (and most of all) FEAR!
It is clear our “clients” are all afraid of something. It also looks like their fear is exacerbated by other people’s fear.
- Vera’s managers are afraid to invest money in important safety programs
- Penelope’s referral partners are afraid their deals will “blow up.” They fear loss of commission, but more importantly customer loyalty and reputation
- Buster’s staff is afraid of uncertainty, which makes him afraid of quality and service issues
- Abigail is interested in learning about where fear comes from.
It seems pretty clear that fear is the beginning, middle and end. Let's keep in mind the words of Ghandi: ”The enemy is fear, we think it is hate, but it is fear.”
Once we realized how much fear plays a role in our problems, we began to explore the topic further. Our course materials certainly provide ample resources, but a quick Google search yields 509 million hits and countless resources on this topic. What’s so astonishing is how so few of us are even aware of our fears. Herein we will explore our fears and discuss strategies to overcome them.
Our first case clinic was boldly shared by Vera, who had the strength to “put herself out there” first. The intricacies of her case will remain private, of course, but the general details are as follows:
Vera is responsible for managing the employee safety program for her facility. The safety department is considered an overhead expense that does not generate revenue. Because her general manager focuses almost exclusively on profits, he has turned down her suggestions to increase safety measures because of the associated cost.
Her biggest frustration is that she does not have a constructive relationship with her General Manager because he doesn’t respect the value she brings. He’s not appreciative of the savings her programs have brought the company by way of reducing lost work, workers’ compensation claims, and potential litigation.
Vera’s concerns, or fears, followed by action steps:
- Becoming more marketable to her current and prospective employers. Vera wants to be valued as competent and capable.
a. At the conclusion of this course, she will have her BS degree, which will have an immediate impact on her marketability, both within and outside her company. More importantly, it will boost her self confidence.
b. Vera does a great job working her “network” of people. She will get in front of those who are in a position to hire her in other departments at work, as the company grows its digital outlets. She will also utilize the contacts she has acquired from her years as a private consultant. This will require some grit, as she will have to put herself out there and face some rejection.
- Find a way to convince her managers that not investing in her plan will be more costly than doing nothing. We discussed Vera finding the confidence to have more forthright conversations with management to provide the resources she needs to do the job she was hired to do.
Vera was formerly an independent consultant in the safety field. As a consultant, she was able to present helpful and effective information to her clients, mostly business owners and general managers. Vera successfully secured many contracts for her services, using her presentation and communications skills. Knowing she was an effective communicator in her previous position makes her current situation even more frustrating. Vera must be cautious in approaching future conversations because her relationship with her manager is sensitive. As described by Marshall Rosenberg in his discussion of Nonviolent Communication, Vera could employ the four step process of Non Violent Communication (NVC).
First, identify when she is experiencing an unfavorable conversation with her manager. Then identify how that information has impacted her emotions. She can then better explore ways to express what she needs from her GM to improve her relationship. While this feels risky, and elevates her level of fear, it is necessary to address this or the unhealthy relationship will continue. There are actually two levels of fear in this challenge. One is the exercise may not work because her boss may not be open minded to explore a resolution, and the other is this may jeopardize her job if she doesn’t handle this effectively.
Vera is aware that she must continue to strive to improve current relationships with her current manager, while also looking for better working conditions either within the same company, or at a completely different employer. While reviewing course material and coaching comments from her peers, Vera has come to the understand that the solution resides in change within herself and her communication styles rather than in blame of the management team. While the fear she experiences feels as if it is coming from how others view her value, Vera has identified that the challenge of learning clear communication styles is the key to overcoming the problem. The next part of the challenge is maintaining the energy to see that change through.
Penelope had some major revelations during her clinic and beyond while researching the topic of fear. She went into her coaching session believing in her own bravery, because very few things “scare” her and she’s almost impossible to intimidate. Her Johari window exercise revealed that others find her brave as well. But she soon realized that she has allowed her fear of inadequacy to prevent her from achieving her goals.
Reputation means everything as a sales person. The fact that Penelope has little control over the product delivery and overall client satisfaction has taken a toll because her company’s service is often inadequate. For many years, she has blamed the industry. She hoped her coaching session would reveal some new strategies that could offset the negativity she faces. Instead, she learned that she’s afraid to lose connection, praise, and her past reputation of being tenacious and getting the job done. As a result, she’s no longer tenacious nor getting the job done. Her insecurities have mounted because she’s becoming the person she’s most afraid of being—incapable, unreliable, a poor performer.
“Bravery is not the absence of fear. Bravery is feeling the fear, the doubt, the insecurity, and deciding that something else is more important” -Mark Manson
Penelope’s world opened up the moment she came to this realization. Instead of implementing strategies to counter her world, she is going to work on maintaining her self awareness. She’s going to walk towards her fears.
As expressed in an article by Lara Galinsky, “Fear Means Go”, Galinsky shares how her mother used this phrase when the author was a child. The phrase was a tool to help Galinsky face challenges and fear with determination. Galinsky offers three steps to overcome fear.
- Acknowledge you are afraid
- Determine what kind of fear it is, and decide out? if it’s based on insecurity
- Acknowledge it as a gift.
The author describes fear as a compass, indicating where to go to learn the lesson. Turning her fear into a useful tool, Penelope now has a compass and a map to help guide her through her challenges.
Buster is a business owner of a company, ABC Company, which develops and manufactures high end electronics and associated equipment. The primary target markets include US defense contractors, US governmental agencies and the commercial communications industry. Buster has owned and managed the business for over 17 years. The employee base consists of almost 50 employees which are generally considered a skilled workforce. The employees include electrical engineers and technicians with a technical background. The average employee has been with ABC Company for 10 years or more, with a diverse employee base. All employees hold a high school diploma and most have completed trade school education. Most administrative and professional staff hold a college degree.
Buster has requested coaching to present a company wide meeting to reassure employees after a layoff of 6 people, which he agonized over for many weeks. Buster would like to host a meeting to assure the remaining employees that the business is sound and the future is positive. The people affected by the layoff were an even mix of production and professional/administrative staff. Buster wants to assure the remaining employees that the existing contracts could be better, but there are exciting new potential contracts coming on the market in the relatively near future.
Buster’s current goals:
1. Buster wants to communicate to the remaining employees that he values their contribution and that they are all valuable members of the organization.
Buster is confident that the business will continue to thrive and that this business decision was healthy for financial as well as organizational reasons, however he fears that he will lose additional employees, sacrifice product quality, and jeopardize service. Previously he removed a senior Sales representative because he was not producing, but also because his communication skills were not in line with Buster’s goals for internal and external relationships. Although the sales rep came to him with strong recommendations, he was not performing and was not strengthening relationships with the ABC Company client base.
· Tish pointed out that from her experience the people chosen during a reduction in force “speaks volumes” to the people who remain in the organization. Since the sales rep did not mesh well with the majority of the employees and had not connected with clients to any major degree, the employees may see this as a healthy decision.
2. Trish recommended that Buster move forward with his plans for a company wide meeting, town hall style, but to keep it brief and explain that he respects that the reduction in force affects everyone emotionally. Trish recommends that Buster acknowledge that the experience will be different for each department, and that he will host smaller departmental meetings in the upcoming days. These smaller meetings will allow for more dynamic dialog and will create a more intimate environment. Employees are often intimidated by large group meetings and do not want to ask questions or make a statement that others may judge versus smaller meetings.
3. Trish and Tish both recommended that Buster express his appreciation for the employees’ hard work and may have to two or three different statements to convey this information. This may also give enough reassurances that other employees will not start looking for other jobs because they worry about the health of the company.
4. Buster agrees with Tish that using the resources provided in the text, Conversations for Change, will provide useful tools in discussing changes with the group. Buster realizes that most of the people on his team are of the “high steady style” (Hayashi, p.41), who fear the loss of stability most of all, and need to hear the big picture view when changes occur. The conversation with the team should focus on the positives, and a commitment from Buster. Some examples include:
”ABC Company has built a solid reputation for quality and service over the years, and we will continue this tradition even with our smaller team.”
“This is just a bump in the road for our team, and there are several significant opportunities for us out there such as...”
“Would you help me to lead this company to our greatest success by promising to do your absolute best every day? I promise I’ll do the same.”
5. Trish recommended that Buster prepare a short review of how he expects to make up for the loss of these positions. He must acknowledge the value of those employees and be honest about the impact that loss will create. Buster should take this opportunity to explain his plans and describe his solutions and ask for employees help in achieving those goals. It would also be appropriate for Buster to ask for their input and observations which will include them as part of the solution. They will take more ownership if they are included and asked to share their perspective, and become “invested” in the success of the company thereby minimizing their potential fears about the company’s health.
6. Buster shared an example of a problem that occurred during a previous experience when he had to lay off a few employees several years ago. He observed it affected the Production department whereby the product quality scores went down--somewhat significantly. He had to identify the problems and develop a solution. Buster acknowledged that he now is aware of this, and will be able to look for problems early in the transition. If he shares this experience with the group they can be involved in looking for problems early on as well.
Abigail researched her response to her fears and expressed it in a series of questions and answers. What is fear? How does it affect our lives? How do we overcome our fears? First, we need to acknowledge our fear and know that it will go away if we take the proper steps to overcome it. Fear, as an emotional and physiological response, is caused by the belief that we are in danger. When we are in real danger it helps us protect ourselves. However, sometimes fear is unsubstantiated, and present only because we are avoiding conflict. People would rather do extra work than confront the persons responsible for the conflict, even if they are under their supervision. Conflict is always going to be part of life, so the best thing is to know how to behave and overcome our fear when in the presence of it.
An article by Dr. Shahram Heshmat found in Psychology Today shares insight about courage. Not only that you need to acknowledge your fear, but you need to figure out how to resolve such a problem. This process involves the opposite of fear: courage. Once a person gathers his strength and faces his fear, he is already half way through conquering the feelings of terror that kept him under its spell. Where does the courage come from? Once the client acknowledges the source of their fear, they can easily find solutions that will enable them to triumph over it with the help of their surroundings, such as counselors, Psychologists, friends, families, and coaches.
Renee Charney, President and Founder of Charney Coaching & Consulting LLC has published information about partnering with organizations or individuals to lead them to an impactful change. In particular, one of their guiding principles recommends achieving balance between “Space, Place and Pace”. Since we have established fear as our common theme we can help our clients overcome fear which is the result of letting the voice of judgement (VOJ) shut down our open mind (Scharmer, p.59) by using the balance of space, place and pace. Therefore clients can explore the situations on their own (Space). With the help of their coaches they will be able to find the best position they can occupy so they can manage the situation with better results (Place). Finally they will move forward while keeping a balanced pace. This paragraph feels a bit unordered, hard to follow. Is it better?
Abigail has identified her personal fear as the fear of conflict. She is still working on a way to overcome this reaction. Abigail has noticed that she tends to avoid conflict, and therefore many different conflicts build up. Abigail has learned through research the following commonalities regarding fear of conflict:
- This kind of fear may be born anytime during a person’s life
- Guilty feelings emerge as conflict builds
- Fear of conflict can keep one from achieving and moving forward
- Others might think that an individual is unreliable because they avoid conflict
- Fear is commonly called “fight or flight” mode
- Fear affects the mind and the body. Some people have palpitations, others present dilated pupils, some are paralyzed, meaning they are not able to move for a while when experimenting fear of any sort
A type of therapy that is recommended is Relational Psychoanalytic, which helps an individual learn how to handle conflict and also maintain healthy relationships.
No human is exempt from fear--it is an inborn defense mechanism born of necessity. We are well past the “fight or flight” modes that kept us safe from sabor tooth tigers. The fear that interrupts our everyday lives is fear of the unknown--unknown ways to deal with conflict, change, adversity, and embarrassment, to name a few. The group has taken the first steps by opening our heart, opening our will, and opening our minds during this exercise. In doing so we opened ourselves up to learning how to deal with our fears by making ourselves vulnerable--opening up to a group of people whom we have never met in person. This positive experience gives us the confidence--and even enthusiasm--to face our fears one step at a time with the help of a coach.
Hayashi, S.K. (2011) Conversations for change: 12 Ways to say it right when it matters most. New York: McGraw Hill
M. Rosenberg. The heart of nonviolent communication (NVC): A brief introduction to the concepts of NVC. [Web log comment] retrieved from: http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/freeresources/article_archiv
L. Galinsky. (February 6, 2013) To change the world, fear means go.
Harvard Business Review, retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2013/02/fear-means-go
Scharmer, C. O. (2008). Uncovering the blind spot of leadership. Leader To Leader, 2008(47), 52-59. Retreived from: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.sju.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=03a27ae5-8056-4a5a-8ac9-88bbc60a7dea%40sessionmgr4001&vid=6&hid=4105
S. Heshmat. “10 Features of Courageous Choice” Retrieved from:
Photograph: Tish Bonner