Among Giants

Among Giants

I have a project. An exciting, new project. A project that I have been talking about for months. A project that partners me with another person (someone who is extremely intelligent, organized, and a deep thinker). We met on the project a few times, took notes, and had a game plan with various assignments.

This project has been on my plate for a few months. I started some research, then stopped. I opened the file to start writing, then stopped. I took the folder out of my briefcase, only to put it back in. For whatever reason, I could not “Ship It” or make progress.

Something was triggering this procrastination. I tried to pin down the reason, but could not find the words.

I took a risk and called this partner. We decided to meet.

“I have to confess. Despite the excitement around this project and our discussions, I have not made any progress on my part.”

“Well, to be honest, I have had the same struggle.”

Another risk. The real risk.

“Ok, here is the thing. I am a little intimidated working with you on this project because you know this material and have studied it in more depth, and are so smart, and so…”

“What? You are intimidated by me?”

The reason for the mutual procrastination was revealed. We both viewed the other person as more competent, intelligent, and suited for this project. I am sure some it stems from the “Less Than Default Switch” and this setting skews our perspective of others.

Our conversation continued.

“It is almost as if I am among giants, when I compare myself to others.”

“Exactly, but I am still surprised you feel that way. I understand why I feel that way, but not you.”

Among giants. Our perceptions of others, their abilities, their accomplishments, their status can warp our own self-perception. This distortion can create the fear and insecurity that holds us back from trying, shipping, or stretching ourselves.

They are not actually giants. They are fellow travelers on this journey. But this problem seems older that just me and this project. Older than you and your project, idea, or journey as well.

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about” Cassius

(Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2)

 

Take Credit For Yourself As Well

Coaching is an interesting process. Your role as a coach is to help provide the structure, clarify the issues, and ask a lot of questions. Occasionally, you also provide the accountability to hold people to deadlines or tasks. A coach must also resist the temptation of being the expert, especially if your “expertness” comes with pre-formed solutions.

Sometimes the coaching process feels like a meandering path. Other times, coaching resembles a highway with clear mile markers and ways to measure fast progress. Either way, as time passes there is movement. There are accomplishments. There are achievements.

When those accomplishment or achievements occur, those being coached are grateful. Some express their appreciation.

“Thanks Coach.”

“I owe it to you.”

“You are the reason this happened.”

After a coaching session, I heard similar expressions. I needed to reply.

“Take credit for yourself as well. I am not the reason this is happening. You are doing the work, I am just here to help you find the path.”

This appreciation if left unaddressed can become the second temptation of coaching: Taking all the credit.

Coaching should diminish as both accomplishments and confidence rises. Those being coached begin to ask their own questions, set their own goals, and hold themselves accountable. Coaching may continue through the progress, but at a lessor degree and may eventually cease.

Properly balanced coaching can move people forward with their life, career, business, and/or personal goals. No matter which side of the coaching relationship you are in, keep these two things in mind:

If you are coaching others, remember to resist both temptations (expert and credit).

If you are being coached, remember to take credit for yourself as well.

 

 

Customer Service Coaching and the Salad

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(Image Courtesy of http://thehealthyfoodie.com)

While eating at a restaurant while traveling, an interesting customer service interaction unfolded that I could not ignore. As the three people at the adjacent table received their food, I noticed one of them make a face and explain to the staff that something was in the salad. Something that should not be in a salad.

The plate was removed, and the other two people shared their food until a replacement meal arrived. You couldn’t help but notice a pretty thorough examination of the second salad. It was declared clean, and the meal continued.

I gave my salad a close look when it arrived as well.

Although the meal continued, you could not help but notice how this interaction somehow tainted what would normally be a pleasant lunch. Whatever topics that would have filled their time together, had been replaced by a salad and service.

The bill arrived. Redness appeared on faces and necks. Conversation intensity increased.

I could only guess that the salad remained on the bill, and no gesture was made to make up for the prior issue. One of them pulled out their credit card and placed it down with the bill.

I got up and walked over.

“Sorry to bother you, but customer service is an interest of mine, talk to you for a minute?”

They agreed, but were still a little stunned/agitated by the whole lunch interaction. I explained that I witnessed and was aware of what had transpired.

“What is really upsetting is not that the salad remained on the bill, it was the indifferent attitude of the staff. We explained what happened, and instead of apologizing, they simply said ‘ok’ and took the salad away.”

I encouraged them to speak up. Talk to the manager or someone to explain what happened. Typically, a business only hears from 4 percent of their dissatisfied customers. That means for every 100 times you drop the ball, only 4 people will tell you.

Never assume that the absence of complaints equates to satisfaction.

That doesn’t mean your customers are not telling someone. Despite not talking to you, those same dissatisfied customers will tell 8 to 10 other people about their interaction, and some will tell up to 20. With social media, now they can tell hundreds or thousands of people.

They spoke up. I watched a manager come over to talk to them, and a new bill arrived. Their tone, and demeanor changed. They smiled, and prepared to leave.

“We told them that we needed to talk about the bill and the lunch experience, now that we had been coached on customer service.”

We laughed and shook hands as they left.

Things will go wrong with your customers. You will make a mistake, or fail especially when things are hectic or busy. How you treat you customers when you make that mistake can makes all the difference.

Apologize.

Acknowledge.

Keep in mind, there may be others coaching your customers to make you better as well.

The Shirt, the Challenge, and the Surprise

Coach T-Shirt

The Shirt

When teaching a class on coaching, I joke with the class about having shirts made up that say “COACH” and threaten to hand them out and make them wear them in their workplace.

 “What if I gave you a shirt like this and made you wear it in your workplace when you get back on Monday? Who here would want to wear it? What would your employees say?”

A few replies to my questions from a recent group of leaders during a class on coaching appear below.

“Not a chance.”

“They would ask me if I started coaching one of my kid’s teams.”

“I would be laughed out of the place.”

I pressed a little further to find the root of the hesitation on being labeled the “COACH” in their workplace. Each was a leader in their organization. Each had a title and at least a few employees. But something was stopping them from coaching.

As the conversation progressed, the obstacles became more clear. There wasn’t enough time to coach (and get their own work done). The culture would be critical of this approach. They were not coached as employees, and the list went on and on until an even more revealing answer came to light.

“Because when a team is failing, they fire the Coach!”

There it was, the real fear behind the hesitation. Being the focus of performance may result in the owners switching leaders if the organization is not performing. With the fear out in the open we could move towards agreeing on why coaching is essential to the team’s success.

Coaching goes beyond holding people accountable for task completion. Coaching is about developing people as individuals, stretching them, and helping them achieve more both individually and collectively. Coaching requires a combination of encouragement and accountability. Coaching is needed for teams.

The Challenge

Beyond a mere threat, I actually had these shirts made up and hand them out at the end of the class. Periodically, I would get an email about how wearing the shirt in the workplace helped the leader focus on coaching their employees, despite the initial awkwardness. I even heard from a leader who must wear a uniform each day at work, but wears the “COACH” shirt underneath once a week as a reminder to coach their employees.

A few months ago, I changed my strategy. In addition to having them take a shirt, I issued a challenge. The first leader to email me a picture of them in their workplace wearing the shirt would win a prize.

The Surprise

The responses have been great. Within a day or two I start to receive photos of these leaders wearing their “COACH” shirt in the workplace. The challenge helped provide some incentive, but the results have been greater than just a prize. Many leaders have been surprised as they experience something more once the awkwardness fades: their employees have embraced the concept and are enjoying the coaching.

But that is not the only surprise.

Last week I taught the Coaching class in the morning, but then there was a break where the group had a few other instructors before concluding the day with me. I headed back in the room and started the session.

It was when I clicked to the second slide of the PowerPoint.

There it was. A photo appeared on the screen. It was a photo of the entire class wearing their “COACH” shirts in the lobby. They had managed to take the photo and put it into the presentation during the break.

“Technically, since we are all on the clock, this counts as working.”

I laughed. I was encouraged by their creativity. I was surprised.

After giving out prizes to all of them, I reminded them that now that they had gotten over their initial hesitation, they could all become better coaching in their workplace.

Over the next few days, other photos appeared in my inbox. Coaches were identifying themselves, and starting to do the work. They were making a difference.

How about you? Do you need a shirt as well?

Make a list of those in your workplace, circles, or life that need some coaching. Once the awkwardness fades, it may be just what they need.

I Will Be There Someday

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(Image Courtesy of Angryjogger.com)

Coaching someone is an interesting adventure. You are trying to help someone develop themselves, establish and accomplish their goals, and encourage them when the journey becomes difficult. A typical coaching session includes checking in and checking up on any progress since the last session.

Progress can be slow.

Progress can be hard.

Progress is about making a repeated effort, over and over again.

Having someone else check in with you can be helpful.

Having someone else check in with you can be frustrating.

Sometimes there is great progress.  Sometimes progress is slow. Sometimes obstacles get in the way. When checking in, you can sense when progress has been slow by the tension during the meeting. There is a quiet hesitation as you begin to ask questions.

When frustration builds, answers sort of blurt out.

“I will be there someday…”

Those words told a story. A story of frustration at how steep the journey had become. A story where each subsequent step was harder than the last. A story that felt endless when trying to envision the top of those stairs when standing at the bottom.

Those words told another story. A story with a little hope. A story that needed to rest between steps. A story that needed to remember to occasionally look back, and see that each step was one step closer to the top. A story that despite the hardship, still believed that “I will be there someday.”

Where has your journey become steep? Where has the progress slowed or stopped?

Maybe today is a good day to remind yourself to take that next step, and remember that YOU will be there someday.