Posts Tagged ‘Coaching’

The Invisible Coach

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

In his book, Sacred Hoops (one of my favorites), Phil Jackson, perhaps that greatest basketball coach of all time, talks about control. He relates the story of Bobby Knight, the college basketball coach who commented about how he could never coach in the NBA “because the coaches don’t have any control over the players.” Jackson’s response to this is, “How much control do you need?”

Jackson talks about a period during the 1991-1992 season where the Chicago Bulls “were in such perfect harmony they rarely lost.” To him, this was exactly what he’d been striving for: to become an “invisible” leader.

In my own coaching, that’s been a goal of mine: To be so effective that the person I’m coaching loses sight that I’m actually doing anything; the person doesn’t realize that I’m contributing in any way and I become an Invisible Coach.

That’s happened a few times, and it’s extremely rewarding. It’s happened with race drivers, and it’s happened with business executives and managers I’ve coached. They only realize the full value of my coaching when faced with a challenging issue, and they come knocking.

While it’s rewarding, it can be a little unnerving from a job security point of view, and even from an ego perspective. Hey, let’s face it – some of the reward of coaching, or managing others is seeing them do what you’ve told or advised them to do, and seeing them be successful because of that. That does feel good. And yet, when you’re invisible, you aren’t able to get that immediate feedback. And you can begin to worry that if you’re not seen as providing great advice or direction, then maybe you won’t be needed.

Great leaders, as Phil Jackson suggests, can be invisible leaders. The challenge for so many is having the discipline not to stick their fingers in where they’re not needed. One of Jackson’s great attributes is his self-discipline, his ability to not do any more than needed.

Coaching, managing others, and leading people can be done in a subtle way, an invisible way. Have you ever experienced a situation where a manager, or leader, or coach helped you in a subtle way – a way that resulted in you figuring out what was needed, a way that resulted in a great result, a way that made you feel good about how it came about, and yet, in a way that the leader/manager/coach barely seemed to be involved? How did you feel? I suspect you felt empowered.

Dwight Eisenhower said, “Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Are you the Bobby Knight-type, or the Phil Jackson-type when it comes to leading, managing or coaching? Do you use control to get things done, or are you more invisible or subtle type?

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Mindset

Monday, July 28th, 2008

One of my many favorite books is Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck. I highly recommend you read it. In the book, Dweck suggests that people have two different mindsets: a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset.

MindsetA fixed mindset is one where a person sees things as set in stone (to some extent), and things are what they are. For example, a person with a fixed mindset believes that he or she was born with a certain level of intelligence, and that it won’t change.

A person with a growth mindset, on the other hand, sees the opportunity to constantly grow and improve. He or she does not feel limited by what they were or were not born with.

What I love about Mindset is that it talks about people in a variety of situations, from business to sports, and from parenting to relationships. And in each situation, Dweck provides examples of fixed and growth mindset people, and more importantly, what can contribute to each “personality”.

As I read Mindset, I recognized myself in a number of areas, both fixed and growth. Typically, I’m a very growth mindset type of person, but even so, there are situations where I realize that I have a fixed mindset to some extent.

It’s also interesting what types of things can trigger and develop a fixed or growth mindset in a person. Read the book, and I guarantee you’ll start to think more about what you say to your fellow workers, your employees, your children, your spouse… everyone. You will definitely become more aware, and that’s always a good thing. At least, that’s what my growth mindset tells me!

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Does Education Lead to Learning?

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

A good friend of mine makes the differentiation between education and training with a thought-provoking question: Would you like your daughter to attend a sex education or a sex training class? Points out the difference between education and training, doesn’t it?!

A good friend of mine makes the differentiation between education and training with a thought-provoking question: Would you like your daughter to attend a sex education or a sex training class? Points out the difference between education and training, doesn’t it?!

To me, learning is when there has been a change in a person’s mental programming. Education is often – but not always – the process of putting information into someone’s brain. Unfortunately, sometimes when you stuff that information in, it doesn’t stay there. How many times in your life have you studied for some type of exam, cramming your head full of information so you can regurgitate it for the exam, and then not be able to recall even 10% of it a month later?

Education, where information is simply given to the student, does not have a long-term effect on the person’s performance. If the student can’t even recall the information a month later, let alone use the information to change a behavior, then he or she truly has not learned it.

Learning is where the information has been internalized and has changed the student’s mental programming, and there is a change in behavior. Learning is programming, and programming is learning. Mental programming is when the synapses in our brain form a pattern, and we can then repeat the information, the skill, the behavior, or whatever, over and over again at the subconscious level. We know it. We do it. We act it. We perform it.

But, in the words of Harold Stolovitch, “training ain’t performance,” either (in fact, that’s the name of his excellent book, Training Ain’t Performance). Well, not necessarily. Sure, training can lead to a person performing what they were trained to do. But, how often have you sat through a training program and then not performed any differently than you did before the program? Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

If we want to change and/or improve a person’s performance – how they perform a certain activity – we need to change their mental programming. An educational program could do that. A training program could do that. But there is a good chance they won’t. Unless the education or training program does more than just provide information, theory, or knowledge, then any change in mental programming is more up to the individual than it is to anything else. In other words, if the individual doesn’t take the initiative to do something with the information, there will not be much change or improvement.

How many times have you read a book or an article and thought, “That’s good advice – I’m going to do that,” and then not changed? At least not any long-term change. Think of the millions of people who hear or read about a new weight loss diet, say they are committed to it, and are back to the same weight within 6 months. Until a person changes their mental programming of their self-image, and change their habits, it’s very unlikely there will be any long-term weight loss.

The same thing applies to performance in the workplace. Companies spend billions of dollars every year sending their employees to training programs. Unless there is some form of ongoing follow-through, such as coaching, performance improvements are typically small. The training has not resulted in a change in mental programming.

“Xerox Corporation carried out several studies on coaching. They determined that in the absence of follow-up coaching to their training classes, 87% of the skills change brought about by the program was lost. That’s 87 cents on the skills dollar. However good your skills training in the classroom, unless it’s followed up on the job, most of its effectiveness is lost without follow-up coaching.”
Business Wire, July 30, 2001

“A study featured in Public Personnel Management Journal reports that managers (31) that underwent a managerial training program showed an increased productivity of 22.4%. However, a second group was provided coaching following the training process and their productivity increased by 88%. Research does demonstrate that one-on-one executive coaching is of value.”
F. Turner, Ph.D. CEO Refresher

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Performance Coaching and The Variety of My Job

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

I love the variety that my coaching “job” allows me. Actually, anything this much fun couldn’t be work, so I can’t really call it a job.

Two weeks ago I was coaching firefighters in the Seattle area, enhancing their on-the-job performance. A component of this training was aimed at driving, but ultimately what I was doing was helping these fire- fighters improve their performance in all aspects of the job. My presentation and training provided them with a number of “tools” that they could use to trigger great performances. If any job could use these performance tools, it’s firefighting.

A few days later, I was conducting a workshop for a car club in Boston. Again, they initially thought the presentation was focused on driving, but everyone walked away saying things like, “Wow! This applies to a lot more than driving. In fact, it applies to just about everything in life.”

A day later, I was in North Carolina at a meeting with some people from one of the largest leadership development and coaching firms in the world. Amongst other things, we talked about ways to integrate motorsport coaching with business coaching, and how what I do can be used as a laboratory for research and development of new leadership training methods.

Later that week, I was in Los Angeles doing something that I’d never done before: coaching a drifter. No, not a homeless person, but a driver who competes in drifting competitions. In 2006, he was the world champion, and now wants to improve his mental game, especially handling the pressure that is put on him to perform. I had never seen a drifting event, nor did I know anything about the techniques and skills the drivers need (well, I do know a little more now). My lack of knowledge of the techniques and skills was not a problem – I wasn’t there to teach or instruct him. I was there to develop a mental training program that would enable him to perform at his peak. It turned out to be a very successful 2.5 days of coaching, and I look forward to an ongoing coaching relationship with him.

Speaking of ongoing coaching relationships, from L.A. I flew directly to Australia to work with a driver I’ve coached off and on for almost 6 years now. Again, here is a driver who has the basic knowledge, skills and techniques, but every now and then needs work on the mental aspects of racing. Specifically, I spent 3 days coaching him at one of the most beautiful race circuits in the world, on Phillip Island, near Melbourne. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this island, do it. And for sure, go see the penguin parade, where the fairy penguins come ashore each evening – it’s one of those amazing scenes put on by Mother Nature.

This week I’ll be phone coaching one of my regular coaching clients, and then I’m off to Washington, DC to conduct a program for teens on behalf of a major insurance company – on “Good Morning America.”

Firefighters, car club members, leadership development groups, drifters, race drivers, teens, insurance companies… they all have one thing in common: they want to improve their performance. And I’m the lucky person who gets to help them achieve their objectives… and learn from them all so I can help others even better… so I can help them achieve their objectives… and learn from all of them…and on it continues.

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Every Day is a Learning Opportunity

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Whew! I just got home from a two-week trip that had me in 7 cities. I watched a race driver I’ve been coaching since he was 13 compete in a NASCAR race at Daytona; talked to three different car marque clubs (two BMW club chapters, and one Porsche club); coached a high-level race driver; trained four engineers from Honda; and spoke at a safety meeting for a large corporation about their fleet driver training. My stops were in Daytona, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Danville, Virginia; Newark, New Jersey; Long Island, New York; Homestead, Florida; and Houston, Texas; from 25 degrees and 6 inches of snow in New Jersey to 85 degrees in Homestead. One day I’d be speaking to and training about 100 people, and the next I’d be working one-on-one with a driver…

Whew! I just got home from a two-week trip that had me in 7 cities. I watched a race driver I’ve been coaching since he was 13 compete in a NASCAR race at Daytona; talked to three different car marque clubs (two BMW club chapters, and one Porsche club); coached a high-level race driver; trained four engineers from Honda; and spoke at a safety meeting for a large corporation about their fleet driver training. My stops were in Daytona, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Danville, Virginia; Newark, New Jersey; Long Island, New York; Homestead, Florida; and Houston, Texas; from 25 degrees and 6 inches of snow in New Jersey to 85 degrees in Homestead. One day I’d be speaking to and training about 100 people, and the next I’d be working one-on-one with a driver.

Oh, and all this was just a few days after doing a presentation for a little over 100 senior managers, from all over North America, from Nokia Siemens Networks.

While all but the Nokia session were related to driving in some form, every person I spoke to had one thing in common: they wanted to improve their performance by learning more. The people from the corporation I spoke to wanted to help all of their employees who drive as part of the job to drive more safely, and have fewer driving incidents. Consider that the average on-the-job collision costs an organization $16,000 in direct and indirect costs; the costs rise to $74,000 if someone is injured; and over $500,000 if there is a death. Obviously, there are strong financial incentives, but more and more companies are committed to helping their employees stay safe for more than the dollars saved – it’s just the right thing to do to look after your people. (go to www.swervefleet.com for more info)

Honda engineers test drive their work. Before they make any change, update, improvement, or new design, it has been tested in some pretty extreme driving conditions. There are some auto manufacturers who question why any company would train their engineers to drive better so they can test their cars better – they don’t see the value in this investment. I won’t say which company thinks Honda is wrong, but I will hint that this company is losing billions of dollars, while Honda is profitable. So, which company has the flawed thinking?

Many people would be amazed at the number of car clubs in this country, and the number of members in these clubs who consider driving to be a sport. No, these are not race drivers; they are “performance drivers.” Their focus is on improving their performance behind the wheel. That performance could be in driving smoother and more in control, it could be performing at their best when faced with an emergency, or it could be performing well while driving their cars on a track. Ultimately though, they want to be better drivers and appreciate their cars more. In doing that, they are some of the safest and most responsible drivers on our roadways.

Race drivers? They are all about maximizing their performance, and they will go to great lengths to do so – even to the point of flying me to the other side of the country to “tune” their minds. Sure, there are times I actually teach a driver a skill or technique, but most of the time when working with drivers at this level, I simply work on bringing out every last ounce of the skills, techniques and talent they have. And that mostly comes from ensuring their minds are turned on and performing at their best. No different than when working with an athlete in any sport, or a business manager.

These people have more in common than most realize. They all want to learn, and they all want to improve their performance. Fortunately for me, I get to help them achieve these goals – and learn more myself. I can’t wait to see what next week brings… or where I’ll be.

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