CoachingExcellence

January 1, 2017
Dear Coach,

Welcome to my Blog. Here you'll find essays I've written about coaching. Some of the questions I'm exploring are (1) What makes coaching work? (2) What helps coaches do their work well? (3) How do coaches continue to be masters of their profession? and (4) What the heck are those ICF coaching competencies, anyway?

My passion is helping coaches to be their best, so they can bring the best of coaching to their clients.

There's something here for all coaches, at all levels of experience. I’ll bet you'll learn something new, find a new perspective to consider, or just encounter a new way to say what you already know from experience. It’s all good, and (probably) good for you, too! .
You're welcome to browse - I'm sure you'll find something that resonates with your experience. You can also search on Categories and Tags for specific topics.

If you find something that you enjoy, please share with your colleagues and friends, and copy the link so you can find it again. Leave a comment if you’d like. You just might spur a new essay about something I’ve learned from you!

It's my privilege to offer my thoughts on coaching.. Enjoy your reading!

Sue McLeod, PCC

Strengthen your coaching core - ICF MD Chapter Webinar Series

CoreStrength:  3-Part Webinar Series Covering ICF Core Competencies

Hosted by ICF Maryland Chapter

Presented by Sue McLeod, PCC

REGISTER HERE

*** Purchase All 3 Webinars and SAVE ***

(Sessions held on April 3, April 17and May 1 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)
4.5 CCEUs – Attend All 3 Webinars
4.5 CCEUs – Complete All 3Post-Webinar Assignments

$250 – ICF Maryland and Global Members
$300 – Non-Members 


Individual Webinars

1.5 CCEUs – Attend 1 Webinar
1.5 CCEUs – Complete 1Post-Webinar Assignment

$100 – ICF Maryland and Global Members
$125 – Non-Members

  Don't miss this incredible opportunity!!! 

Webinar #1:  Creating a Trusting Relationship for Coaching (April 3, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)


The magic of coaching begins with the relationship we create with our client.. Strong mutual trust and trust in the coaching process create asafe space for clients to honestly share their hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations.. When we accept the client as they are every time we meet, and treat them as a partner, the opportunity opens to work together to create the results the client desires.

This workshop is your opportunity to learn about the core strengths that create this magical relationship. Learn about the three types of trust - coach trusting the client, client trusting the coach, coach and client trusting the coaching process. Learn how creating trust and intimacy and coaching presence support the rest of the coaching competencies. This workshop is an invitation to reflect on the quality of the relationships you have with your clients, and learn from Sue’s experience and the wisdom of other coaches how you can strengthen this core of your coaching.

 “I really appreciate the way you have illustrated the model, where everything points  to trust and intimacy in the relationship!”    ~ webinar participant

Webinar #2:  Defining and Aligning with Your Client’sAgenda (April 17, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM) 


What differentiates coaching from other disciplines? The answer lies, in part, in how coaches use the skills of Active Listening, PowerfulQuestioning, and Direct Communication. The practice of these skills in coaching is different than consulting, teaching, counseling, and our everyday interactions with friends and colleagues. Supported by the foundation of a trusting relationship, we listen intently to the client, we ask questions that expand their thinking into new perspectives and possibilities, and we share our observations and experiences as input to their process, not as the answer tothe problems.

This workshop is your opportunity to deepen your understanding of how to apply these coaching skills and take an honest look at your own listening, questioning and communicating. We’ll explore how these skills are supported by the trusting relationship we have with the client and serve the client’s work to create the life they desire. Through sharing and discussion ofthe challenges we face, we’ll find pathways to return your coaching to these fundamental coaching skills. 


Webinar #3:  Leveraging Your Coaching Skills for Learning,Growth and New Results (May1, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)


It’s easy to stray from the purpose of coaching after you and the client have spent some time together. When coaching sessions become opportunities for clients to share what’s happened in the last week, complain at length about the status quo or explain how other people are causing their problems, you’ve likely drifted away from the coaching competencies that define why client’s hire us and what’s necessary for them to make progress towards their goals.


This workshop is your opportunity to revisit the “purpose” in the “purposeful conversations” we promise our clients. These core strengths include defining the agenda, intentions or goals of the coaching engagement ande ach conversation, searching for the new awareness that opens new options, and defining the action steps and success factors for the client to make changes in their life. We’ll explore how these competencies set the framework for all o fthe coaching competencies to work together to support the client to create the life they desire.


                                                                 Don't miss this incredible opportunity!!! 


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What? Me Worry?

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I’m a worrier.

In the back of my mind there’s a constant stream of worries. big and small - about family members, business, and clients. I worry about what’s on my to-do list, what I’ve forgotten to put on my to-do list, and how I’m going to everything done. My worries are small (what to make for dinner) and large (how my favorite team will fare in the big game) and global (what’s going on with the global economy).

My moment of acute self-awareness about the degree of my worrying was when I noticed that I was worried that I wasn’t worried enough. Doesn’t that sound a little over the top?

I’m not the only coach who worries.

I’ve heard from many of you “If the coaching police could hear my coaching, I’d be arrested!”. Although a bit overstated, this captures an underlying worry that we’ve strayed from “pure coaching” (or coaching the way we were taught or the way we think ICF expects us to) and wandered into the territory of advice-giving, letting the client talk too much, or other perceived “sins” of coaching.

(For example, see my Blog Post “Am I Coaching or Something Else?” for a my thoughts on crossing the line from coaching to consulting.)

Worrying about things beyond my control wastes energy. While I can don my lucky hat for the big game, there’s not much I can really do to help my team win.

For things that are within my control, I’ve learned to sit with the worry and consider if there is some truth lurking underneath. Maybe there is something I am being called to do. When I’m worried about a family member, I can (at a minimum) reach out to them and make a connection. When I’m worried about my do-to list, I can spend thoughtful time clarifying and prioritizing. And when I’m worried about what’s going on in my community, it’s time to take action.

When you are worried about your coaching, what is calling for your attention? How will you know what needs to be addressed?

Students in my Coaching Master Class bring their worries and find clarity from our work with the competency model. One student was concerned that she didn’t know how to use Direct Communication. As we explored that competency, she discovered that she was using Direct Communication effectively - she just didn’t know it. She could put that worry aside. Other students find things they aren’t doing as well as they could. They discover they really are doing more telling than asking, or they skip the agreement setting or forget to nail down actions. Through our conversations, they turn that worry into a learning intention. By the end of the class, they have new coaching moves and feel more skilled and confident.

What are your worries about your coaching? Move from worry to clarity by looking more closely at your competencies and find where you can let go of the worry, or shift into learning.

The Coaching Master Class is designed facilitate this type of reflection, with the added bonus of being with experienced coaches as partners for your learning. I bring my experience as a coach, trainer, and assessor to keep us aligned to the coaching competencies.

Sue, There’s something magical that happens when people get together in the learning environment you create. So, on one level, there is this ethereal feeling of camaraderie. But then there's another level where I'm getting real, practical information and help on what to do to be a better coach. My notebook is full of new questions to ask my clients. Kelly Kienzle, PCC

Are you ready to transform your worries into better coaching skills and more confidence? Join the Coaching Master Class starting on March 12.

  • 18 Core Competency, CEU, including 3 hours of Ethics.
  • Small group, interactive learning.
  • Eight (8) on-line webinars between March 12 and August 6, 2018
  • More details including class schedule HERE
  • Save $150 by registering before March 2.

If you're not ready for a class, Mentor Coaching is a “personal trainer” approach to improving your coaching. We’ll get to the evidence from listening to recordings of your coaching, make some grounded assessments based on my knowledge of the competencies, and find powerful ways for you to shift your coaching and your confidence.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

With gratitude for the student and client who teach me so much!

Sue

(I remember the line "What? Me Worry?"   from Mad Magazine's Alfred E Newman. Here's a link if you're curious https://www.madmagazine.com/blog/2012/12/19/totally-mad-excerpt-who-is-alfred-e-neuman)

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Creating Silence


The scene in the photo above literally stopped my in my tracks. I was hustling from Georgetown's building on Mass Ave. to meet a friend for dinner and passed this opening between the buildings. Stunned by the glowing purple sunset, I stopped and (of course!) had to capture it with my camera. There's nothing like a gorgeous sunset to take my breath away and create a pause in my thinking and my purpose.

Powerful questioning in a coaching conversation can do the same. They can be magical. When your questions are working, they seem simple and effortless. It's not just the words we use. It's the pace and timing, and the intention behind the words. It's not just one question, either. It's a group of questions that respond to the client, build on a theme, or shift their perspective in a new direction.

And, sometimes, it's what we don't say or don't do that creates what our client needs - silence.

I was reminded of this the last time I was in DC, staying with friends and teaching coaching.

I was playing “What’s That?” with the precious two-year old son of my friends. I had turned the tables on him. Instead of being on the receiving end of his incessant questions, I was questioning him. He quickly answered when I pointed to his socks, pants, shirt, hair, and nose, but was stumped when I touched his forehead. He paused, looked around, and there was an unusual silence. I resisted the temptation to tell him the answer or move on to his arms and fingers.

After a what seemed like an endless pause, he started to speak… “ffff…”. Another pause, then “fffooorrr…”.

More quiet and glances around the room. Suddenly he looked back at me and said “fore….head!” with a big smile.  I was delighted! And grateful I had allowed the silence for him to think and create a new connection between his forehead and its name.

The next day I was with a group of students, observing their coaching. One coach had the good fortune to ask a question that the client didn’t answer right away. To her credit, the coach endured the silence and waited. In our debrief discussion, the coach admitted that she was mortified, thinking that the client didn’t understand the question. The client countered that the question was a tough one. She needed the time to think.  It was the perfect opportunity to remind the students that clients will tell you, pretty quickly, if they don’t understand your question.

The questions that invoke silence have taken them to a place where there isn’t an easy answer.

When you have the good fortune to create that silence, take a deep breath, stay connected to your client, and wait. What’s happening in the silence is more valuable than anything you can say.

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Swimming Upstream - From Giving Advice To Asking Powerful Questions

 Swimming Upstream - From Giving Advice to  Asking Powerful Questions

 

Alewives are fish who spawn in fresh water and live their lives in the ocean (like salmon and other anadromous fish).  Each year they make the journey from the ocean, up rivers and streams to their spawning grounds. Fish ladders, like the one in the photo, provide a pathway around man-made obstacles like dams and roads. It is amazing to watch these small fish swim up this ladder and fight against the strong current of the rushing water.

I sometimes feel that learning to be a coach is a similar journey going against much that has made us successful in other work that we do.

I was reminded of one of the struggles in my journey to become a coach, just last week.

I’m on the phone with a client, listening to her and doing my coaching thing. At the same time, I’m aware of what’s going on in my head. You would think that after 15 years of coaching my problem-solving brain would know when to take a break! But no, it’s chattering away today with brilliant solutions and insisting that I share these with my client. It’s confident that one of these will be the magic key to unlock what’s holding her back.

It’s hard some days to suppress my years of math, computer programming and consulting when finding THE answer was the objective. Hmmm… Could the Sudoku puzzles I work on everyday also be reinforcing this preference?

I’m also aware that I’ve defined my value in relationships by what information, ideas or solutions I can offer to others.  Even the cards and gifts I give have to be “just the right thing”. Moving away from problem-solving was the biggest transformation for me when I became a coach. And the chatter in my head tells me it hasn’t disappeared. It is just held at bay when I’m intentional about my role in the conversation.

I’m not alone in this. Many of my students come from problem-solving professions and struggle to understand the coach’s role. I’ve come to believe that learning to coach requires un-learning how we relate to others and redefining the value we bring to the relationship.  In order to truly step into a coaching mindset, we must shift from being the one to find that magic key and become the one creating the opportunity for the client to find that key for themselves.

I’m noticing that just writing this is bringing up some anxious thoughts: “But that’s no fun! It’s too passive, too much in the background!”; “What about all the stuff I know that would be so helpful for my client to know, too?”; “Who am I if I don’t share a few brilliant solutions for my client?” It’s interesting to listen to these thoughts and notice what’s important to my ego!

I’m curious about what you learn about yourself when you listen to your anxiety about giving advice.

I like to think that I’m good at managing my inner problem-solver while coaching. I’ve learned to hear the chatter as input to my coaching, rather than as something to say out loud. To do that I need to stay centered and connected to my client. I need to tap into my curiosity. I need to shift my listening.

It might go something like this.

My client is taking about how she’s not being consistent in the pause practice she agreed to last time.  My problem-solving brain has ideas about how she could set an alarm, pair it with an existing habit, and a few other brilliant ideas for helping her to do this.

I take a deep breath and ask “What have you been noticing?”. I use this curious, open question to buy a little time and space for me to shift my listening.

Breath again. Shift my body to an open and curious stance.

“Maybe some structure would be helpful to her”, I think, as she continues describing her struggles. I’m pulling away from my specific solutions to consider the theme of what my problem-solving brain is saying.

Breath… listen…be curious.

Now I notice something new emerging in what my client is saying.

I tune in even more and stay curious. I keep breathing and wonder what does the client know already? Where is she now in her journey?

I hear judgment about how pausing is a waste of time, it’s a good idea but it feels weird to do. She’s doing it sometimes, but not sure she can do it when it matters. Hmmm, this isn’t about alarms to remind her, it’s about something deeper.

Here’s the place to put aside my brilliant ideas, and start asking questions.

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Taking Out the Trash (or How I Manage Client Information)

What do you do with your coaching client files and records?

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The trash can is overflowing as I throw away files and papers related to my coaching clients and students. There’s a pang of regret and fear that goes along with this exercise. “What if I need these again and can’t put my hands on them?”  Then a competing voice asks “But you promised your clients confidentiality and privacy and why do you need to keep all of this information anyway?”

In my Ethics in Coaching Class we carefully read the ICF Code of Ethics and ask ourselves if our current practices are aligned with the provisions of the Code. Each of us finds some way we can do better and we commit to learn more and make specific changes.

My assignment was to get serious about managing client information and deleting files when appropriate.

Here’s the paragraph in the ICF Code of Ethics I was using as my guide:

11. Maintain, store and dispose of any records, including electronic files and communications, created during my coaching engagements in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security and privacy and complies with any applicable laws and agreements. (ICF Code of Ethics, July 2015)

On first reading it seems simple and clear, but when you start asking “How would I implement this?”, the ambiguities appear.  What do I really need to do to “promote confidentiality, security, and privacy?” and which “laws and agreements apply?” are just the first two questions I asked. 

My goal was to create routines that addressed client and student records within a reasonable time after coaching engagement or class is done.  This seemed like an easy assignment, but I ran into the some challenges - I found it was a little more complex that I thought and I stumbled into more than one a“rabbit hole”.

Here’s my homework report that I shared with the other students in the class:

First things first - Where are my client documents?

  • Client documents and information are stored in many more places than I anticipated!. It’s in tax returns; my bookkeeping software; and my PayPal account. It’s in calendar entries; contact lists; and emails with their attachments.  It’s in electronic files and folders, and on paper. Client data is stored on my hard drive, on my mobile devices, in the “cloud”, on my desk and in notebooks.
  • With laptop, iPad, IPhone, and cloud apps that sync with each other, data start in one place, then get copied in two, three or more additional places.

I was overwhelmed by the idea that I needed to protect and keep “confidential and private” all of this data that is stored in so many places!

With all of that data floating around, what (really) needs to be protected?

I decided that the IRS and Maine Department of Revenue are the only entities really interested in who I do business with, how much I’m paid, when and for how long I talk with clients, or what their phone numbers/email addresses/Skype addresses are. I just don’t think there’s any danger in this information becoming public for the people I work with. Password protection should be enough.

It is important to protect and dispose of information about the content of my work with clients and students. This includes client coaching goals; interviews and notes from bosses, peers and direct reports; coaching session prep sheets;  homework assignment reports; coaching recordings, transcripts and assessment reports; and my notes about any of this content.

Now that I know what to delete, I need to know how!

This turned out to be the hardest part of this assignment. Deleting electronic files isn’t simple (or easy) because of multiple syncing devises, cloud-based applications, and disorganized filing systems. 

It took me a week of exploring to feel like I fully understood where files are stored and how they can be deleted in the systems I use. For example a file that I receive as an email attachment is stored on the mail server, in the mail folder on my computer, phone and tablet, and in system files that are hidden from my view, and then I copy it to a client folder. Tracking down all of these copies and learning the steps needed to really delete was, to say the least, a chore. 

After a couple of weeks of exploring and learning and thinking, here’s what I plan to do.

#1: I will be rigorous about deleting client, student and assessment files related to the content of our work within 30 days of the work being completed. I have an item on my ToDo list every 2 weeks to handle this task. I will delete files from ALL places that I know they can be hiding out on ALL devices and sites.

#2: I will revise my agreements to Include language that says I will hold our work in confidence but “doing business with” information will not be protected beyond passwords on devices and websites.

Sounds simple, but it won’t always be easy! 

With the technical details figured out, I started deleting - and ran into another obstacle.

My aversion to throwing things away reared it’s ugly head as soon as I started moving files into the Trash. Luckily, I quickly noticed that this response was the same as my response to getting rid of a pair of shoes that no longer fit. While my fear says these things are irreplaceable and I will suffer harm without them, my logical brain knows that they can be replaced, that most of the time they don’t need to be replaced, and that no deaths or injuries will occur if I no longer have them. 

I can just let them go.

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