Drive with a Coach or a Consultant?

  • “She’s a senior executive, having problems with a couple of the men on her team. Her management style would be more effective if she could be more forceful with them.”
  •  “The Executive Director is very stressed out with the new demands of the job and we don’t want to lose him.”
  • I don’t know if this manager understands their role. They need to manage their people, not befriend them.”
  • If you can’t help them change their behavior, we may have to fire them. A new boss means new standards of performance and they don’t seem to understand that while they are very good technically, they are woefully substandard inter personally.”

Many professionals use the terms “Coach” and “Consultant” interchangeably, I don’t. So I always pause before I answer when someone asks me if I’m a Coach.

People aren’t all that interested in what I think the difference is; they just want to know if I can help them. Definitions of Coaching and Consulting aren’t really set in stone. In fact, in the corporate environment thy often overlap. The difference however is significant and important to understand. Once I learn more about what a potential client is seeking, we can then determine if it makes sense to move forward and work together.

They Have Potential

Whether you blame or praise the Human Potential Movement, it has done a lot to raise the visibility of Coaching. Common in athletics, coaching grew in popularity for businesses as the rate of change picked up speed. Professionals saw a need for support in keeping up with the shifts and the demands for productivity. Once left to professionals in the Organizational Development field, the doors opened wider due to the demand.

In the last several years the field has exploded to include all aspects of life. With that expansion has come the growth of the coaching industry which offers people a variety of ways to get certified as a coach. Oprah has had a variety of Coaches from Life guru Cheryl Richardson to Diet Guru Bob Greene, and Financial maven Suze Orman.  Any athlete who wants to improve looks to their coach to help them advance their performance. I’m betting you know people who have hired coaches to help them with their job search, networking, or running their business.

Here is my take on the difference between coaching and consulting, why it matters to me, and why it should matter to you:


  • Improves your business by doing defined, performance based work for you. It helps your organization by bringing in an expert to perform a specific task that improves things is a measurable or observable way.
  • Is about a project: Consultants bring expertise and experience to you. While you work through decisions together with a Consultant, you are the person that has the responsibility for the project and the outcome. The Consultant provides guidance, information, and options.
  • Works best when you need an expert in the relationship. A Consultant can do most or all of project after you have determined exactly what a successful outcome looks like. You can work together to learn the skills needed, which will come in handy when the consultant departs, and you have all of the responsibility for the outcome.
  • Consultants have expertise that can get you to the result you seek faster. Consultants can work with you for a short time to achieve specific goals or you can develop a partner-like relationship and work together on a variety of projects over time.


  • Empowers you and trains you to make your business successful. It helps you become a better leader, a better professional, and teaches you to be proactive in managing.
  • Is about YOU: your goals, your dreams, and your aspirations.  You have the answer and ability within you and the Coach helps that ability and answer emerge. Coaching is personal. You may have some limiting beliefs or ineffective habits or behaviors that need to be examined or changed. A good Coach can help you do that. They encourage, applaud, support, and push you to accomplish your goals and enhance your performance.
  • Works best when you know what you want to do but are unclear about the best way to do it.


The Coach will help you understand how and why you should drive a car, help you figure out what might be holding you back from driving, driving well, or driving more often, and be in the car the next time you drive somewhere.

The Consultant will explain why one car is better than another, teach you how to drive, and if necessary, drive the car for you.

So your Coach teaches you how to drive. Once you know how to drive, you will know if and when you need to hire a Consultant to help you consistently win drag races.

So Elaine wants help with a project –

  • A Coach can help her explore her feelings and actions to see what might be holding her back from moving forward effectively. The Coach will help Elaine examine failure and celebrate success.
  • A Consultant will show Elaine different techniques and methods. Elaine will decide how much she will take on and how much the Consultant will take on. The Consultant may create a process or outline possible strategies. Elaine’s Consultant will celebrate the success they created together.

Coaches’ help people achieve and Consultants are hired for their expertise. Both work for the success of their Clients.

It helps to be a knowledgeable consumer. People who describe themselves as a Coach or a Consultant should have the credentials, experience and qualifications that earn them the moniker. Using the label ‘coach’ or ‘consultant’  should not be the only qualifier.

Within each category, there are many of areas of expertise. There are Executive Coaches, Career Coaches, Life Coaches, and Business Coaches. There are Management Consultants, Training Consultants, Organizational Development Consultants, and Human Resource Consultants. So you should first and foremost be very clear about what you want. You should be able to define your goals and objectives when exploring the process or the outcome.

Be a good consumer. Ask the person you are talking to if they can provide you with what you want. Ask for examples and references. Some people use the terms Coach, Consultant, or even Counselor interchangeably, and that can be problematic.

Neither Coaching nor Consulting should be confused with therapy. A good professional Coach or Consultant recognizes the warning signs and should refer the prospective client to a qualified mental health professional.

Most of the time I’m a Consultant. I’m a Counselor by educational training. Every once in a while I provide a hybrid model: I offer advice and expertise when it’s needed, motivation and idea generations when clients get stuck, and insight to create a more effective professional and organization.

Before you talk to anyone about coaching, consulting or driving a car – think about the outcomes you want to see. To quote Yogi Berra – “If you don’t know where you are going, you could end up some place else.”  And you might not even know it!

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Change: It Takes 3

Has your organization gotten to a point where the status-quo just doesn’t feel competitive or energizing?  Sure, executive leadership tries to change and improve things but it’s kind of boring. The successful employees may do things right but they also may just be lucky and luck is almost impossible to replicate.

What if you COULD duplicate success? What if you could improve the odds that changes made are not just going to be successful but could make others successful too?


There are 3 keys to successful organizational change: strategy, tactics and people. And most people go to their strength – which means that one thing will get their attention and the other two parts will suffer from neglect.

Strategy Strategy is the skill in managing any matter using a plan or a system. In the world of organizational change, it really means the vision: defining what needs to change and why. Without a plan, there is no direction.

Tactics – Tactics are the methods used to bring about the change. There are a wide variety of tools to manage change, but the key is making sure you are using the right tool for the job you have in mind. The less effective the tool, the more time and energy are wasted. You might need a few tools, used in conjunction with one another in order for your change to be successful.

People – Everyone is unique and reacts differently to change. Without people being on board with the change, the strategy and the tactics you choose won’t matter.

Your style and skill move you to where you feel most comfortable and where you probably experience the most success. Be warned – going to your strengths can actually leave you weak.

If you think that Strategy is your strongest suit, you ask:
• Where are we going?
• How are we doing?
• What needs to change? Why?

You are concerned with the bottom line and the big picture, and tend to use words like vision, purpose, competition, performance, goals, critical analysis, brainstorming, and logistics. You look ahead ask where the organization will be in five years. You compare your organization to other firms, evaluate the effectiveness of current practices, and explore new ways to do things.

If you think your strengths lie with Tactics, then you are most concerned with HOW to make needed changes rather than why they are necessary. You focus on the tools and processes that can bring about successful change. You concentrate on the present and don’t worry about the future. You use words like tools, hardware, sequence, discipline, details, control and plan. Order is created by assigning tasks and organizing, scheduling and following up.

If you are drawn to the People side of change, you are most concerned with involving others, gaining their trust, and eliminating fear, stress and resistance. .Eager to reduce conflict and improve teamwork, the words that are important to you include communication, values, growth, interaction, participation, training, intervention, development, emotion and interpersonal. With sharing, listening, expressing and collaborating, you work towards developing team building tools.

  • Big picture people like STRATEGY
  • People who like methodology, tools and technology favor TACTICS
  • PEOPLEpeople are interested in communication, learning, feeling and knowledge.

Managing the transition process successfully requires a working knowledge and comfort level with all three areas. The most skilled ‘Change Agents’ build bridges between the three components.

Only interested or skilled in one specific area? No worries!  The solution is to make a concerted effort to learn more about the other two areas. Get to know people who value the other aspects of organizational change – the ones that are not your strength/interest. If you go to your strength then know that the other two areas will require support and development. Be resourceful and make sure that all three areas are included in your plans for successful change.

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Showing Up is Not Enough

You might remember the time when you were younger (or maybe not so young!) and you failed at something. Or perhaps you didn’t get into the school you had your heart set on. Maybe you didn’t get the job you thought you were the perfect fit for.

What kind of role did your parents play? Did they try to protect you from disappointment? Tell you that you should try for another opportunities?  Give you a hug and a pep talk? Make a call or two on your behalf?

You may have heard of ‘helicopter parents (who hover) or lawnmower parents (who clear the path of obstacles): well intentioned, they work to insure their child has success and joy. What they may create however are fragile ‘teacup’ people who have never been given anything except praise and applause. When faced with the reality of the workplace, these folks expect the adoration and delight to continue. When they don’t get the raise or the promotion for working for 6 months straight, they are genuinely surprised

When people are sheltered from improvement feedback or failure, they develop an unearned confidence. Look closer beneath the surface however and you may see that the confidence is fragile. If you think I am talking about the Millenial generation, you might be right – although it’s not only people in their 20’s and early 30’s who behave this way. Many Millennials actually know they need to be developed. They just expect it now and often.

High self-confidence and self-esteem can prevent people from improving: if you are not aware of what needs improving, how can you get better?

What They May Think:

  • Showing up is worthy of applause. That is why so many younger folks think that they should get a promotion for ‘time served’ regardless of achievements or work habits.
  • They are unique. If Amazon can customize their shopping preferences and Pandora will play music they like, why wouldn’t the workplace see them as exceptional and special too?
  • Feedback is ongoing and often. They have lived lives with almost instantaneous input. Parents, teachers and friends monitor them 24/7. Text and get an immediate reply. Put something on social media or post a photo on Instagram and watch the ‘Likes’ and comments appear. Why would work be different?
  • Change is normal. If studies are any indication, expect technological changes every 7 years. Everything seems temporary and little is permanent so no one is thinking of a job or a mortgage for 30 years! Jobs are stepping stones to other jobs and employment comes with options and choices.

So now what?

Things don’t change backwards so in spite of wishful thinking, customization, ongoing feedback, and frequent change are all here to stay.

However, the mindset that simply showing up is sufficient will need to shift because performance matters. It should — and always should.

These confident folks are optimistic and truly care about the world we live in. Managers can have a hand in changing how unearned confidence can go from apathy about performance to investment.

Managers who can clearly articulate the standards of performance and focus on results rather than applauding the arrival at work will get more of what they focus on.

When people are praised for what they have accomplished, they’ll have genuine self-esteem.

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When managers are not happy with employee performance, they often provide improvement feedback, advising the employee what they want to see.

Sometimes it’s general:

  • I want to see an improvement in your communication
  • You need to improve your relationships with the finance department.
  • I’d like to see more employee engagement.

If they don’t see employee improvement, it’s not surprising to me. I can’t tell from those statements what the real concern is.

Sometimes it’s more goal focused:

  • I want to concise reports that are no longer than one page.
  • The finance department should see you and your team as resources.
  • Your employees should see an connection between their goals and the goals of our entire division. 

But it still leaves the person guessing about how to deliver the goods. If someone isn’t giving you the desired results, the first thing an effective manager does is look in the mirror and ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Am I clear in my own mind of what his/her job is? Is there a question about the definition of responsibility?
  2. Have I made clear to the employee what I expect of him/her? Could there be a problem of communication?
  3. Have I gained his/her acceptance of what I have defined as his/her responsibility? Could this be a problem ?
  4. Have I fed him/her work according to his/her level of skill? Is this a training issue?
  5. Have I given him/her too much work to do? Too little? How would I describe the work distribution?
  6. Have I been realistic as to the performance I expect? Have I been clear about work standards?
  7. Am I checking up on him/her too much? Could this be an issue of control?
  8. Am I treating him/her any different than the others? Am I leaning on him/her more without realizing it? Favoring others?
  9. Is s/he turned off? Do I know why?
  10. Have I been too hard on him/her? Too much criticism? Not enough “pats on the back” when s/he did a good job? Is it a question of reward and punishment?
  11. Has s/he had personal problems I haven’t been aware of? Have I been sensitive to his/her situation?
  12. Does it have anything to do with his/her relationship to the other workers? Is there an interpersonal concern?
  13. Did I give him/her more responsibility than s/he could handle? Not enough? Is delegation the issue?
  14. Am I paying him/her as much as the others for the same amount of work? Is there a perception of inequity?
  15. Have I seen to it that s/he knows enough to do what I expect of him/her? Is training the problem?
  16. Does s/he belong in this kind of work? Is it an appropriate selection?
  17. Is s/he just plain rebellious? Is it a disciplinary problem?
  18. Does s/he have problems I don’t know about? Is this a counseling concern?

What a manager does next depends on the answers. But one thing I see a great deal of is the inability/unwillingness to help the employee figure out HOW.

  • What exactly do I need to do to improve my communication?
  • What specific actions do I need to take to improve my relationship with the finance department?
  • What actions are required on my part to engage employees successfully?

It may be that no employee will ask the question (or ask it in that way). No one wants the boss to think thy don’t know what apparently should be obvious. But if the boss isn’t seeing what they want – don’t assume they know HOW to do it.

I know that it would make a manager’s life so much easier if employees just knew HOW. But without evidence that they have performed this skills before, it’s more of a hope than an accurate assumption.

So ask them if they know how – and then listen as they walk you thought the strategy, and define the skills required. They may know WHAT to do, but not HOW to do it.

That’s where some good managing comes in.


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More Effective Conversations NOW

One of the most frequently requested services I provide is coaching and training support in an effort to conduct more improved communication and conducting more effective conversations at work. While everyone seems to appreciate the importance and usefulness of the ability to effectively communicate, this critical ability it is often referred to in an almost disparaging manner as ‘soft skills’ (My preference is to describe these abilities as ‘non-technical’ skills’).

Most people are overly focused on getting work done and the interpersonal skills required to work well with other people well gets second (or third or fourth) billing. However, if you are looking to have more effective conversations, you can!

Here are some specific things that you can do:

  • If you have something specific to say, start with it rather than starting out with a general topic and trying to move to your specific point. You risk never getting to the specific and real reason you wanted to talk.
  • You are not helping anyone by starting out with upbeat and positive comments if you are planning to follow them up with negative comments. Difficult negative things are best said right away. Often, the very act of saying them will reduce their threatening quality and the anxiety in the situation. It is much more important to end on a positive note than to begin on one.
  • Try not to allow the other person to run away from your point. It is important to use concrete examples of the point you want to get across. When you use examples, make every effort to tie them back to the main point and explain the connection as you see it.  If actual examples of’ the point you are trying to make occur during the conference – make every effort to point that out when they happen.
  • If you reach an impasse and want to break it or change the direction of the conversation, try sharing your own feelings as you are experiencing them, right on the spot, in the conversation. Try telling the other person how the discussion is making you feel.
  • Ask questions because you genuinely want information that you don’t have. Don’t asking questions for the purpose of confirming things that you already believe. Don’t “test” people.
  • Work to communicate clearly and directly. Don’t allow people to assume what you mean – explain to them the thought processes you went through to get to the statement you are making. Conversely, don’t make assumptions about what is being said to you; ask for explanations, connections, examples, or clarifications.
  • Try to stay with the other person. Listen and concentrate on what is being said while it is being said, rather than thinking ahead to what you will say in response. Try to concentrate on them rather than on you.
  • Try not to say ”yes” or “ok” as a way to terminate discussion on a point when what you really mean is “no” or “I don’t want to talk about that now.”
  • Try to be succinct with points you need to make: frequently a point is lost in overkill with language.
  • When delivering a necessary but difficult, negative, or hard message, work to avoid softening or diluting the content. Instead, try softening or gentling your mode of presentation. The idea is that while the content must be paid attention to, you will be with the person to help. The topic may be a difficult one but you can work through it together.
  • Try not to jump too quickly to solutions to a problem from your point of view. Make sure through the discussion that you and the other person have correctly identified, most importantly, agreed upon the definition of the problem.  Answers or solutions that are genuine and lasting will more likely arise from the person, or you and the person, rather than from you separately.  While you may be able to identify the condition that isn’t working, what is causing it and how to correct it depends on good information and involvement from the person it concerns (namely THEM!).
  • Eliciting information from others and listening skills are important. How the person has received and understood your input (and vice versa) is crucial to the concept of ownership. Ask open ended questions that allow for a deeper level of understanding (rather than questions than can be answered by either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer).
  • In order to realistically deal with an area of weakness or a skill in need of development, a person may need to see some strength that they possess which would help them compensate in the area of concern. You can help by pointing out strengths you observe and how they might be employed to an advantage.  Again the person needs to discuss these points with you sufficiently so that they begin to appreciate the qualities and see the possibilities for crossover themselves.  Take the needed time to have a substantive discussion of their strengths.
  • People tend to see a performance evaluation or assessment conversation as an event rather than part of the communication process. Don’t fall into that trap.
  • Defensiveness on your part does not frequently help the process even though it is a natural reaction. In order to reduce the feeling of defensiveness in response (which is the only way you will be able to avoid acting on it) try the following: inhale deeply, ask for more information from the other person about the topic, listen to what they say, (if you can) separate yourself from the problem, and keep extending yourself in order to determine what is at issue. Try not to make assumptions, take on or lay blame and try to resolve the issue too quickly.

Ty one of these actions and make it a focus of your communications behavior until you can do it without a lot of preparation and forethought. Then add another behavior. There are a lot of ‘moving parts’ to improving the skills involved in effective communication having productive conversations.

When you work on improving critical interpersonal skills that get daily use, you will see your effectiveness improve on a daily basis as well.

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Stop Being So Binary

When you ask ‘yes/no’ questions, you are often only looking for two possible answers.  Sure – that’s more efficient. And everyone these days wants to be getting things done more quickly.

But it limits the information you get before you even get it! And information is incredibly useful.

Asking different questions helps you become a different kind of person and probably a better leader – a more thoughtful person who can end up with a better outcome.  Not only can you get a better result, you also engage others more effectively, learn more about others and how they think, and even develop your own thinking and problem solving skills.

This non-binary mindset requires that you increase your awareness of the questions you usually ask (the ones that can be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and mentally pivot to ask open ended questions.

Rather than ‘connecting the dots,’ ask questions like a naïve detective. Imagine yourself as my most favorite pseudo-naïve detective – Columbo (played brilliantly by Peter Falk)

True, he’s a little annoying with all of the questions he asks, seemingly about little minute ‘throw-away’ details but that is how he solved the crime: paying attention and asking questions. Always polite, genuinely nice, he is also very smart and very, very, good at what he does. Truly intrigued and genuinely curious — that’s how an effective problem solver poses questions.

So what happens if you move from a narrowing mindset to an expansive mindset? You move from ‘hurry up/let’s get to an answer fast’ to a ‘let’s learn’ mindset. NOTE: If time is of the essence, go with speedy. If you are eager to find innovative solutions to challenging situations, asking open-ended questions is a better route to take.

Leaders often use an internal sense of time pressure – both real and imagined – coupled with subtle or overt threats or directives to others to take action. If no immediate threat exists, opt for developing a dialogue that support collaborative learning and creative problem solving.


  • What is another way to look at this?

  • What is the best thing to do in this situation?

  • What else might happen?

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Home Work Home Work Home Work Home – ME

If you are constantly seeking parity between work and home you may feel like you are on a quest in search of an elusive ‘holy grail’; it must exist out there somewhere!

Since just about every professional (both full time and part time) have some kind of life outside of the workplace, it makes sense to examine what balance is, what it isn’t, and how you can get it.

There is no magic involved and more importantly, what works for one person simply will not work for another. It doesn’t really make sense to compare your work/life formula for balance to someone else’s. Given the reality that work and life are in constant flux, creating different pressures on at different times, I propose this simple way to look at keeping a sense of balance in your life:


Periodically assess the demands on your time: What are the demands on your time at work and at home? What things are you involved in that are ineffective uses of your time at home and at work?

Prioritize the demands on your time: Are you doing the right things first? Do you know what the most important tasks are or do you handle the easy things first, the biggest things first, or the loudest things first?

Develop the skills you need to increase your efficiency: If you have a tough time ending conversations, you may need assertiveness skills. If you spend significant time worrying about things that may happen, perhaps some stress management training would help. If you miss deadlines, time management or project management skills are an area that might be to your advantage.


Techniques that can help create a sense of balance include:

  • Positive Self-Talk can serve as a reminder that you have managed in the past to handle challenges and this is just another in the series;
  • RET (Rational Emotive Therapy) can reframe beliefs you have that create emotional reactions into more logical beliefs that don’t create as much internal chaos;
  • Letting Go of Perfectionism and not allowing “Perfect” to get in the way of “Good” – sometimes the only person who sees any difference between those two things is you;
  • Protect the Essential things that are crucial to you because those are truly rare things and are critical to your values and standards.
  • Supportive Relationships in key areas of your life (Work, Family, Friends and Community) reduce the sense of isolation that can lead to stress and frustration. Have 3-5 people in each group that you can go to if you are in need.

That elusive sense of balance will be created BY you FOR you. It isn’t always easy to manage the demands of work and home. Knowing THAT is an essential part of having some peace of mind.


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Engaged: Near or Far

Employee engagement is what organizations are focused on today and the success or failure to create an engaged workforce lies squarely between the manager and the employee. It’s been said that people join organizations but stay because of management. The factors that impact employee engagement can include:

  • Being treated with respect
  • Work – Life balance
  • The kind of work that people do
  • The quality of co-workers
  • The quality of leadership
  • Base pay
  • Providing a good service to others
  • Career potential
  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Benefits
  • Learning and development opportunities

Since the quality of all of the above listed aspects can mean different things to different people, managers need to engage their employees in a conversation about how they view where their employer sits with regard to these factors. That is how they can assess how their efforts to engage are going. While a manager may not be able to impact some of them, the conversation goes a long way toward making the difference in how engaged employees truly are.

But what if you are working with employees who are working remotely? Is it any different?

In working with managers who manage employees that don’t conduct their work in the office, I often hear about the challenge of creating strong connections with other team members and with other parts of the organization for the employee. The best manager’s ask themselves on a daily basis “What can I do today that will remove obstacles for my people and support their progress?”

What can a manager DO to facilitate an employee’s success?

  • C’mon People Now Get Together – Occasionally, get everyone together. Being in the same room allows people to interact in a way they can’t using technology.
  • See Me – Use video technology. Use Skype, FaceTime or any other video vehicle so tht people can see the face that foes with the voice they are talking with.
  • What Time Is It? – Create regular check-in times. Not for checking up, but for checking in. Ask about obstacles, progress, deadlines, and what’s needed by them as well as by others from them. Remote employees should be as accessible as they would be working down the hall.
  •  Celebrate! – Wins and successes always should be noted. Acknowledge and celebrate people’s efforts.
  • Rules – Create protocols and practices for communicating. Where to store documents and data so that others can access them, how often to update people, deadlines and expectations should all be known to everyone.
  • Connect the Dots – Connect what people are doing to the goals of the team, the department, and the organization on a regular basis.  People need to see a clear line between what they are doing, the customer, and the success of the organization.

If it doesn’t appear to your employees are engaged, think about what role you might be playing in that missed connection. Near or far – the manager is often the key connection that either engages or allows detachment.

When your employees see that what they do daily matters; that’s engagement. It won’t matter if they are down the hall, down the street, or in another state.

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Show Them They Have Value

It doesn’t seem to matter what industry, organizational level, or number of years a manager has in their job; the biggest error I see the boss making is thinking that they need to have all of the answers.

It’s not just exhausting for the boss, it’s counterproductive for the role of a boss. If you truly want to get the job of ‘getting work done through others’ done well, you will need to engage your workforce so that they feel valued.

Sure, you can give them ‘atta boys’ and ‘atta girls,’ and provide clear and concise direction, but that isn’t a strategy to truly engage them The best way to show people that they are important is to ask for their input when you are problem solving.

And not just so you can check the box and tell yourself ‘There! I’ve asked them for their ideas first. Now I can do what I wanted to do’.    

The job of the manager is to facilitate the development of their employees, not just make decisions and assign work. As the boss, you are not the one to whom all problems should come for solutions. You are one who is supposed to be developing problem solvers.  If you think that a great manager is to the person to come up with the best solutions, think again!

 Tips for Effective People Management

  • Know how your employees differ. Ask them to describe their ideal manager to learn who hopes for firm direction and who wants more autonomy; then treat them accordingly.
  • Ask more questions for employees who seek to be more involved. Ask them to come to you with options for solutions, not only problems.
  • Ask more questions to find out what they think. Then be quiet and listen to what they have to say.
  • Manage expectations by making your role clear. Make sure they (the ones who want a more directive boss) understand the benefits of your taking a more facilitative and supportive role. Explain that you want to engage them and foster broader ownership rather than be the ‘one with all the answers.’
  • Hold regular one-to-one meetings and ask them what went well and what didn’t since your last meeting. Encourage them to think of at least 2 things they did that they are pleased about. When you move to what hasn’t gone well, use questions to encourage ideas for improvement out of them. What will they do differently the next time around?
  • Think strategically about which decisions you have to make and which decisions need to be drawn out of others.
  • Don’t keep all the ‘fun and ‘sexy’ stuff for yourself. Delegate genuine developmental challenges.

Often remind managers that one size will not fit all. To manage people effectively, broaden your role and include being a catalyst. Flex your style for the needs of different employees. If you don’t develop your talent, they may look for someone else somewhere else who will

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Who Wants the Truth?

Recent requests:

  • A Manager is preparing his team for unprecedented growth. He wants them to be ready for it immediately. Can this be accomplished in a half-day retreat?
  • A Director can’t do it all. She can’t seem to delegate responsibilities, wants to avoid pain and risk, and must develop her staff while also freeing up her time. Can this be accomplished in one meeting?
  • A Vice President wants people to go through training and must see the evidence of the transformation in people’s on-the-job behaviors. What is the maximum number of people that can go through training at one time? Can it be accomplished in 90 minutes?
  • A CEO is making a major presentation to the industry media and wants professional polish and hopes to experience rousing applause and a high level of interest. Can I review his materials online and send him a critique with suggestions?
  • An Entrepreneur is pitching to potential investors and the goal is to generate cash flow and excitement. Can we meet over coffee, so I can hear the key points and then offer improvement feedback?

I’m delighted that these folks want to engage my services. They want to achieve their goals. They just don’t want to simply engagement my services …. they want our work together to be fast, pain free, easy, inexpensive and brilliant.

What they really want is a not-so secret weapon I’ve been known to bring with me to keynote presentations, training programs and one-on-one sessions. It has appeared with me in magazines; I keep a supply in my office, and know where I can get more if I run short. It’s Magical Pixie Dust.

I also have a magic wand that I wave. I possess bags of the glittery material and when I pull them from my briefcase there is usually a giggle of recognition and relief. People admit that this is why I’ve been called in to help.

I’ll confess that pixie dust gets all over everything. In fact, it sticks to almost any surface like super glue. It’s almost impossible to vacuum up. There is something else about it that I’ll share with you — it simply doesn’t work. I’m not Tinker Bell and my pixie dust doesn’t help you fly.

I know that this is what people really want.  I then become the bearer of bad news and a disappointing truth. In a world where information is a mouse click away, the expectation out there is that behavior change can happen as quickly. People want the pill that makes them better, a real life half-hour makeover show that changes the dump into a palace and the loser into a champion. A big part of my job is helping people understand how behavior change actually takes place.

The truth often hurts!  Learning new information, motivating people, and getting them to practice new behaviors (with feedback about performance and possible corrective action) takes time. And practice. And feedback.

Not everyone wants to learn new things. Many people are a real challenge to motivate, and some people will never be as skilled as they (or we) would like. There are folks who say they will try and work at improving their skills but they won’t. It’s not important enough to them, it seems to be too hard, takes too long, or is too uncomfortable.

Some people might be able to improve but they don’t. It’s also possible that they can’t improve. They give it a half-hearted try, get distracted, or think adequate performance is good enough.

 Return on Investment Attenuates Over Time
When I work with clients to accomplish behavior change (whether it is for skill improvement or the creation of strategies) their interest and enthusiasm grows and often peaks at the end of our time together.  Afterwards, they stay excited, focused and optimistic, for day, weeks or months thereafter.

But then, the phone, the boss, deadlines, the in-box, and the real back-on-the-job world attack. My client postpones for the present his/her resolve to apply the principles we worked on together.  Without ongoing reinforcement, performance feedback, one-on-one sessions, clinics, and reinforcement, what is left is the residual ROI. If the goal is to maximize this residual ROI, it makes sense to have a realistic picture of how hard behavior change is and how long it will take. For true goal achievement, performance improvement and behavior change  people need to practice, receive feedback, make adjustments, and have someone ‘hold their feet to the fire’ in order to truly change behavior and have that change stick.

People rarely change radically as a result of going to a training program, attending one consulting session, or watching a presentation. Instead, they display small increases in effectiveness. With ongoing support, these small increases result in effectiveness. And it’s that increased effectiveness is skills that trickle down to the bottom line.

I have to confess to prospective clients that miraculous conversions don’t result from working with me for one session. It comes from the harder work of keeping at it. The payoff comes from applying new information or practicing a new skill in a regular way – and that is where my efforts in reinforcement and ongoing support make the real magic happen.

I want magical pixie dust too. I still hope that my IT guru will fix my technology challenges immediately and over the phone (which I’ve seen him do!).  I’d prefer that my weight loss goal be accomplished by the end of the week. And it would be great if I could know all about a new management trend without doing any reading or research.

A more realistic view and the consistent application of your strategy or skill is the magic that creates improved performance and goal attainment. No pixie dust required!


Posted in Change, Communication, Consulting, Employee Development, Feedback, Guided Execution 1:1, Mangement, Motivation, Skills, Support, Training | Comments Off on Who Wants the Truth?