90% of Success is Just Showing Up

Blog Post by Brian Miller

Ethan flicked his strawberry blonde hair with a quick head jerk to the right. He wanted to be able to see clearly as his body slipped into the weight machine. Exercise had never been his thing. He was a band geek, and band geeks were exempt from High School P.E. But there he sat, getting ready to push some weights and put some definition into his gangly arms.

I’ve worked out off and on all my life. Exercise will be a focus for a while, then I will achieve a good chunk of my goal, and then something else will take my focus. Exercise will drop away without fanfare. After my dad died in December, the grief was overwhelming, stronger than I had ever felt before. I knew that exercise was going to be needed to exorcise some of this grief.

By the grace of God, I connected with Pastor Bill who also needed some exercise. He was getting married at the beginning of summer and wanted to be a bit healthier as he entered this new bliss. Bill introduced me to the weight machines at the local YMCA. I hadn’t lifted a weight since high school, but the companionship was agreeable, and the weights reduced my grief. This worked great until April.

Bill’s ministry revolves around Community Gardens. Guess what happened in the Spring? Bill didn’t want to go to the Y as much as before. The gardens were calling him! Through a coaching session, the aha came. Since Bill had partnered with me and showed me the ropes, I would partner with someone else and give them the same gift. I just wasn’t sure who. I limped along alone for a month.

Our 15-year-old son Ethan was out of school for summer. My hope was not high, but I asked Ethan if he would want to start working out with me. I needed a new partner. I thought about what obstacles would get in the way. My focus can sometimes have a laser cutting effect. I can be a little too intense. As Ethan showed some initial interest, I laid out our goal. We would “show up” to the YMCA 30 times. We would shoot for 3 times per week.

As Ethan sat locked in to the weight machine, hair flicked to the left, he was unsure of himself and what he should expect. I asked him, “What’s our goal?” He looked at me and smiled. “Show up.” Then he began his 10-repetition set. This has taken away all the pressure to perform. The reason I’ve lost focus from exercising over the years is that my goal has always been to perform. Run in less time. Do more pushups than before. Lose more weight. But now my goal is much simpler. “Show up.”

Am I sure this is going to get me through one solid year of exercising? I have no idea. I do know that in year’s past I would have grown bored with this routine by now. Having a partner is helpful. Ethan and I always work hard when we go. Bill and I were the same. There is just enough competitiveness in the room to push a little harder. I’ll need to a new partner when school starts in August. Maybe Bill will be finishing up in the garden.

When you coach a client in an area where they have repeatedly started and stopped, challenge them to find a new goal, a new perspective. Take your client’s mind to a new perspective where the actions she desires are as regular as eating lunch. I always “show up” for lunch. Build in the accountability required to lock the activity into place for at least a year. A partner. A reward. A punishment.

We’re often told 30 days builds a habit. That has not been my experience. A habit isn’t just an action we repeat. It is a new way of life. Habits aren’t measured. Habits just “show up.”

Sing the Right Song

A Blog Post by Bill Copper

“Well I raised a lot of Cain back in my younger days, while Mama used to pray my crops would fail.”

Those opening lyrics from a great old Merle Haggard song paint such a vivid image every time I hear it. And while, I don’t necessarily relate to the theme of those lyrics, I do appreciate the clear and compelling message. I’m a fan of old-school country music – largely because of the story-telling nature of the songs from those artists in that generation. I spent a day in the office a few weeks back listening to several hours of that music in the background while I worked and it got me thinking about how powerful words can be – when crafted intentionally – for conveying a message, or painting a picture.

“She knew the gun was empty, and she knew she could not win…but her final prayer was answered when the rifles fired again”

See there? Willie Nelson sang some pretty descriptive lyrics as well. And that got me thinking about what it means to intentionally craft my words. How do I put together a phrase or sentence that communicates effectively? What goes into the questions or comments I make in a coaching conversation that makes them impactful? How can I sound more like Merle or Willie – not the twang, but the power in their words?

“You know, she came to see him one last time. Aww, and we all wondered if she would and it kept runnin’ through my mind. ‘This time he’s over her for good.’ He stopped loving her today.”

Okay, I promise George Jones’ lyrics will be the last example…but I’m trying to imagine communicating with this kind of power. How would it change my coaching conversations? What insights or awareness might such vivid imagery create for my clients? How do I begin making my words that powerful?

Well, if you have been paying attention, you KNOW I’ve got a couple of ideas to share about this.

Learn the Forbidden Skill – Share Your Story

A Blog Post by Bill Copper

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much our coaching conversations are just that – conversations. According to Wikipedia, a conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people.

Did you see those two descriptors?

  1. Interactive
  2. Spontaneous

What does it mean to have an interactive, spontaneous coaching conversation? Aren’t we as coaches supposed to only reflect back what our clients are saying? Ask some powerful questions? Maybe give a direct message now and then? Well…yes….and NO!

In our own coach training courses, we do indeed spend a lot of time helping break any natural tendencies to dominate the conversation, or interject too much of their own thinking. Particularly in our early foundational classes, we attempt to get the pendulum swinging away from telling and more toward asking. But that isn’t the end of the story for coaches. Our coaching conversations are to be actual conversations. With interactive and spontaneous communication. So, what does that look like? How do we as coaches engage in these types of conversations and still maintain our coaching mindsets that the client has the answers and they are much more likely to act upon their own ideas, hopes and dreams?

I want to share a few principles for how you can share yourself – your story – in the coaching conversation without violating any of the principles you’ve learned for effectively helping others move forward.

First, remember that you are a participant in the conversation, but the conversation is not about you. So, start with a mindset that your purpose for sharing your story is for the benefit of the client – their agenda – their forward movement. Your story should never become the focus, but rather a means to create awareness for your clients.

Next, keep some perspective about how much of your story to share. Keep it brief and then quickly hand back the conversation to your client. Don’t get carried away in telling your story to the point that the focus shifts to you – and don’t tell so much of it, that the conclusion in any way points to a solution for your client.

Also, be very intentional about handing back the conversation to your client with a clear expectation that they can/will take from your story whatever is meaningful for them – not because it had meaning for you.

So….when is a good time to share your story in a coaching conversation? And what kind of stories should you tell? I have found a few really impactful times to share something of myself with my clients and tell them my story:

  • As a means of connecting and building intimacy and trust – this may be some of the most valuable sharing that you can do. When you can gain your client’s trust through sharing something of yourself – particularly something vulnerable. We often assure our clients that the coaching relationship is a safe space for them to share in a confidential setting whatever is on their heart. I’ve found there’s no better way to demonstrate that than by trusting them with whatever is on my heart. When I take a risk and am really vulnerable with my clients, I find it builds trust very quickly and gives them confidence that they can do the same.
  • To “normalize” something they are thinking, feeling, or doing – Sometimes our clients can be tempted to think they are the only ones to have ever done or thought or felt something and they often feel guilty or embarrassed about it. When I can share a story of how I’ve had similar thoughts or taken similar actions, it can help my clients feel less anxiety about their own story.
  • To illustrate a principle – Often we can relate to our clients’ issues because of our own past experiences. This can sometimes serve us well and at other times trap us into imagining their story will turn out like our story. When we are able to relate our story to our clients in a way that illustrates a principal or provides an example, we can potentially create great new awareness for our clients as they draw parallels between the stories and determine what, if any, meaning the illustration has for them. In this area of sharing your story you want to be certain to pay attention to some of the cautions I’ve mentioned above.

If we’re going to have meaningful conversations with our coaching clients, we need to be prepared to take some risk by sharing of ourselves – our story – in that conversation. Engaging in interactive, spontaneous communication with others includes sharing about yourself, and, when done effectively, can help create intimacy, trust, and awareness that can help your clients move ahead.

Three Questions to Start Every Coaching Conversation

A Blog Post by Chad Hall

Every coaching conversation is different: different client, different context, different topic, etc.  Coaches have to be able to flex and adapt to all those differences in order to provide valuable coaching.   But while every coaching conversation will unfold in its own unique way, there are some things that need to happen in practically every coaching conversation (I say “practically” because there’s always that 1% chance you’ll need to deviate).

What needs to happen in every coaching conversation?  Several things:

  • The client needs to find focus on one topic (or at least one topic at a time)
  • The client needs to generate new awareness about the topic, include new options for moving forward
  • Options need to be translated into actions
  • Actions need to be designed

One of the things I often hear coaches struggle with is that first bullet: helping the client find focus on a topic.  This struggle can take on multiple forms:

  • Some coaches struggle to invite the client to state clearly what they want to be coached on (the topic). Sometimes these coaches just chit chat with the client and wait for the client to steer the conversation toward something that sounds like a coachable topic.  The telltale sign of this struggle is the coach’s question: “Is that something you want to be coached on?”
  • Some coaches struggle to facilitate new awareness about the topic before diving into possible actions. These coaches hear what sounds like a topic and then jump too soon to asking questions like “What could you do about that?”
  • Other coaches let their own experience and biases cause the coach to reframe the topic to match what is familiar to the coach. For example, a client might say she is struggling to get started on her book, to which the coach responds, “How could you find time to get started.”  The coach assumes the issue is lack of time, but it could just as easily be low motivation, lack of clarity on the topic, or a hundred other things.