Communication problems abound. The #1 complaint from leaders and managers is “poor communication.” Today, effective communication is more important than ever and developing active listening skills is a necessity in all aspects of your professional and personal life… You can learn to be a better active listener.
Executive coaching requires expertise in communication skills such as ‘Active Listening.’
Did you know that there are three levels of active listening? Those three levels are described below.
Active listening a coachable skill that leaders and managers can develop with practice. Active listening is a fundamental interpersonal communication skill that helps leaders and managers be better communicators and problem solvers.
Active listening is not only key to rewarding conversation and true empathetic engagement but also has the potential to increase positive emotions. I often say, “A good conversation is as stimulating as dark coffee, but more memorable.” Why is that? Active listening can increase our subjective well-being and provide greater life satisfaction.
The three levels of active listening are level 1: internal listening, (e.g., the client is looking inside, but the coach may be listening to how that story affects the coach), level 2: Focused listening (e.g., the coach is laser-focused on the client’s agenda) and level 3: Global listening (e.g., the coach is focused on global cues including intuition, emotions, body language or the environment.) Do you notice the differences? Now reflect on that last conversation you had with a client or colleague. Was it at level 1, or level 2 or level 3?
In addition to those three levels of active listening, there are four main types of active listening that require the listener to hear, evaluate and interpret the content of speech. You can practice each of these techniques.
- Paraphrase. One way to develop empathy and practice active listening is by paraphrasing. The listener repeats the essence of the message spoken by the communicator using their own words. This demonstrates that the listener is actively concentrating on the message the communicator is trying to convey. Paraphrasing can be the most challenging Active Listening technique to perfect as it requires skill as well as discipline. TIP: Record your paraphrase using your smartphone. Then share it with your colleague and ask, “Is this an accurate paraphrase?” It works.
- Reflected emotions. Another tool leadership development coaching utilizes to teach active active listening involves reflecting the feelings of the communicator. This type of active listening establishes an emotional rapport between the communicator and the listener. Be careful when using this technique. Emotions describe another person’s state (e.g., mad, sad, glad, happy, or….) Judgements or opinions are not the same as emotions. Be careful to state emotions only (not judgements) when reflecting emotions to another person. TIP: State something like, “If I understand you correctly you are feeling _____ emotion because of ______ action. Is that accurate?”
- Reflected meaning. Another way to establish rapport between a leader and a colleague, or between a speaker and listener, is through reflected meaning. Reflected meaning focuses on the factual message of the speaker instead of the emotional communication. As an example, use data or facts to build your case. Like a lawyer. State the facts, only the facts, and include numbers, dates, details. The result of repeating those factual details is that i the listener nods their head, as if confirming understanding with the speaker. TIP: Some leadership coaches practice reflected meaning using a communication script such as “When ____ (action) occurs, you feel ______ (emotion) and want to do _____ (new behavior or action). Is that accurate?”
- Summative reflection. Finally, summative reflection includes a confirmation of the message content. Summative reflection can be the most difficult type of active listening to exercise but the power of summative reflection is that it strengthens interpersonal ties and promotes efficiency in the communication process. Summative reflection combines the elements of paraphrasing, reflected meaning and reflected emotion and requires the listener to incorporate personal views into the communicator’s message. TIP: Take notes when coaching someone, so that you can accurately summarize the essential details and validate the leader’s concerns.
Active listening can be taught, and can be coached. Active listening helps leaders to build relationships, solve problems, resolve conflicts and improve accuracy.
Whether you’re looking for an executive coach in Nashville or worldwide you can find more information on executive coaching and active listening by calling Action Learning Associates at (615) 603-3638.
Recently I was asked this question by someone who desperately wanted to be certified as an “executive coach.”
Be careful. Here are the facts.
There is not one “best coaching certification or methodology for those who work with executives,” for several reasons.
1. Executive coaching is a new approach with a short history (about 20 years) within psychology (about 100 years). The protocols that would be “certifiable” have not yet been well defined. There is no external board or established practices, as in other professions such as healthcare, finance or law. I often ask, “Who certifies the certifiers?” (And I have been certified by several coaching providers for decades.) One example of certification based on my dissertation research with global professional coaches is here.
2. The coach training industry is estimated at 53,500 global coach practitioners and over $7B in annual revenue, with 115 accredited coach training programs (ICF, 2016). The reality is that coaching certifications and silly acronyms abound. I co-developed one back in 1999, when there were only about 20 ICF accredited coach training programs.
3. There is market confusion about definitions and coaching outcomes. The result is that vendors have responded to the market confusion. A gap exists between theory and practice because executive coaching lacks rigorous measurement, evidence-based protocols and standard processes. The largest organization, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) stated “the top future obstacles for coaching are (a) untrained individuals and (b) marketplace confusion (ICF, 2016).” That survey understates the confusion. Your question illustrates the desire by many to “get certified.”
4. In any marketplace vacuum, competitors emerge. Countless colleges and universities will declare that their certification programs define standards. Be careful. That archaic model presumes that academics know best, and we are increasingly aware of disruption in the marketplace. I like academics. My dissertation explored the competitive advantage of coaching protocols, using global professional coaches. As the “coaching profession” develops momentum, I encourage you to study the practical market demands for coaching protocols. You may want to be cautious. “The top future opportunities for coaching are (a) increased awareness of the benefits of coaching, and (b) credible data on ROI/ROE/outcomes (ICF, 2016)”. In short, we need to define protocols for outcome-based coaching, including useful certification programs.
5. Certification programs exist. I favor the ROI methodology described at the ROI Institute, and a 2-level executive coaching certification process. Last week the co-founder, Patti Phillips, and I discussed certification programs that moved beyond knowledge to practical demonstrations of mastery. She encouraged me to focus on practical applications. (Disclosure: I trademarked the AD-FIT coaching protocol when some F500 clients asked “How do you operationalize what works?” Those details are at Products Archive – Action Learning (https://action-learning.com/products/) and throughout this website. The fact is that “Many professional consultants or coaches do not adhere to evidence-based protocols (Foster & Auerbach, 2015; MacKie, 2014. Citation sources available upon request.)
6. Organizational clients may design their own executive coaching certification programs. They are cost-effective and foster cultural expectations. (Disclosure: I also serve as an engagement manager and executive coach at CoachSource | Executive Coaching Excellence (http://coachsource.com/), the largest global provider of executive coaching.) Those internal coaching certification programs are customized internally, with expertise from coaches like me, for specific business outcomes that are proprietary.
Bottom line: Certification for executive coaching implies a mature profession with protocols that satisfy a market demand.
If useful, please contact me here. I’d love to discuss your interest in executive coaching certification programs.
All the best, Doug
Recently 4 people have asked me that question. There may be something in the air, like ignorance or fear. Here is a quick model for you to determine if you are a good fit for your organization.
The Competing Values Framework (CVF)
Models provide cognitive maps or useful images for self-assessment and consulting. For instance, the competing values framework defines four boxes from two continua: flexibility or control, and internal or external focus (Cameron, 2008). The result is a simple diagnostic model that can be used to assess your organizational culture (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: The Competing Values Framework (Campbell, 2008)
As you read the following descriptions ask yourself these 3 questions:
- What quadrant best describes my organization’s values?
- What quadrant best describes my individual values?
- How can I re-design my life to work in an organization that supports my values?
Organizations with high flexibility/discretion and high external focus and differentiation are adhocracy oriented. These organizations are dynamic, entrepreneurial, people take risks, and they value innovation and experimentation. Leaders in an adhocracy are visionary, risk-tolerant, and innovative. The adhocracy organizations value experimentation, readiness to change, growth, acquisitions, and new products and services. Examples include technology-based disruptors such as Uber, Airbnb, Virgin. The key word is “create.”
Organizations with high stability/control and high external focus and differentiation are hierarchically oriented. These organizations favor structure, coordination, efficiency, and stability. Leaders in a hierarchically-oriented organization are good coordinators, organizers, and efficiency experts. The hierarchical organizations value stability, predictability, efficiency, rules, and policies. Examples include Bank of America, Community Health Systems(CHS), and Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). The key word is “control.”
Organizations with high internal focus/integration and high stability and control are market-oriented. These organizations are results-oriented, value competition, achievement, and performance. Leaders in a market-oriented organization are hard-driving producers, directors, and competitive. They value winning, increased market share, achieving goals and targets, and rewards. Examples include Merrill Lynch, insurance salespeople, and car salespeople. The key word is “compete.”
Organizations with high internal focus/integration and high flexibility/discretion are very personal places, like an extended family, where participation, mentoring and nurturing are encouraged. The leaders in clan-oriented organizations are coaches, mentors, or parent figures. These organizations value loyalty, tradition, collaboration and teamwork. Examples include the United Way, most churches, most nonprofits. The key word is “collaborate.”
So where is your organization? Where are your individual values? These opposite and competing assumptions are useful descriptors of dominant orientations and value sets. But they do not determine behavior. You determine behavior, when you make your choices. Your individual values do not change.
The key executive coaching question is: How can you re-design your life to work in an organization that supports your values?
Frankly, that is why people hire an external consultant as an executive coach. Once we know an organizational culture, then we can predict your individual effectiveness, success of a merger or acquisition, and your individual quality of life.
Then get in touch with me, your Nashville-based leadership and executive coach, at 615.905.1892 or schedule a complimentary leadership coaching session to discuss how you learn best. As your leadership coach, I strive to provide you with the tools to create an impact, rally optimistic coworkers and comrades, as well as maximize group and individual productivity and creation.
What are you waiting for?
Download this list of services and investment levels now:
Cameron, K, (2008). A process for changing organization culture. In T. Cummings (Ed.), Handbook of organization development (Ch 5). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Think of a recent example of success in your experience, and an example of failure in your experiences. Then consider the following formulas:
Learning from success
Our accomplishments certainly define us; look at any profile on LinkedIn or your net profits from last year. And there is plenty of support for successful leaders, in western cultures, that value heroic leadership. Those examples range from Jeff Bezos to Mark Zuckerberg to the popularized leaders in this month’s Forbes or Inc. magazines. That focus on heroic leadership may reflect hierarchical beliefs such as “the boss is the super-leader” or our team is “too big/smart to fail.” Heroic leaders exist in most cultures, as described by Campbell (1988). However, excessive success can lead to hubris. Success can endanger a leader, especially if they lose the ability to consider multiple perspectives. I have witnessed examples from previous executive coaching, management consulting, and leadership training clients who have lost their focus on a corporate vision. Successful leaders often need external coaches to speak truth to power.
Learning from failure
Failures also define a leader’s character. We recall our failures from 8th grade and from last month. Some leaders post a list of failures in the hallway as a public reminder. Did you know that we recall failures longer than we recall successes, and that the memories of those failures are located in the oldest part of our brain where we process emotions? Last week I participated in a fascinating webinar on “Coaching the post-heroic leader,” led by Jeff Hull at Columbia University. That webinar focused on recent studies describing adaptive leaders who are comfortable working in a fluid, networked, virtual world that supports failure. The lean startup movement described by Reis (2011) and the disruption models (Christianson, 2011) encourage failing fast, and failing often in order to gain a competitive advantage. From a systems thinking perspective (Senge, 2006), failure can provide an external stimulation that helps leaders stay true to their values and character. Leaders who are failing at one behavior may need external coaches to teach them additional tactics and strategies.
Your Consultant’s Conclusions:
My tentative conclusion is that leaders are in greater danger from success, than from failure. But my conclusion is less important than yours.
Ask yourself these leadership coaching questions:
- What have I learned in the past month?
- How do I know that I have learned that?
- What do I need to learn in the next 6 months?
Then call me at 615-905-1892 today, or schedule a complimentary leadership coaching session to discuss how you learn best. As your leadership coach, I strive to provide you with the tools to create an impact, rally optimistic coworkers and comrades, as well as maximize group and individual productivity and creation.
What are you waiting for?
Download this list of services and investment levels now:
Campbell, J. (1988). The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday.
Christensen, C.M. (2011). The innovator’s dilemma; The revolutionary book that will change the way you do business. New York: Harper Business.
Reis, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business.
Senge, P. M. (2006). The Fifth Discipline: the Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Random House/Currency.
In a recent article published by Forbes, Verne Harnish sloppily predicts that in 2016 the term “manager” should be discarded. All companies should replace the role of manager with the role of “coach.” What rubbish. As evidence he cites only one example- that Zappos does so. Ignore this article because it is sloppy and inaccurate. Why confuse the marketplace or denigrate both roles?
Managers should manage; coaches should coach.
We need consistent terms for “managers” and “coaches” for at least these 3 reasons.
- Managers by definition need to maximize the productivity of others. Some hierarchy is mandatory, because the manager’s job requires writing a performance review and determining compensation. Read Peter Drucker, called the father of organizational development, on this point. The idea of maximizing productivity is as old as Diomedes. And as new as Marcus Buckingham. The role requires that managers work in private to coach others, but that skill of coaching should never replace the role of coaching. Perhaps the best model for describing the complex role of managers is Henry Mintzberg’s Managing (2011), which should be required reading for any serious managers, or any student of management theory and practice.
- Coaches, by definition, support others to achieve their personal and professional goals. The agenda is defined by the client/leader, not by a coach or anyone else. The process of coaching varies, from a competency approach defined by the International Coaching Federation to a theoretical construct such as positive psychology (the best example is here). In executive coaching, there is a validated need for both internal coaches who expedite the careers of HiPos, and external coaches who provide customized leadership development for senior leaders. None of these coaches are managers. However, managers are often tasked with coaching their direct reports. See point 1.
- Confusion abounds in many learning organizations, especially those that are dominated by fear. We do not need any sloppy terminology. Coaching was once an activity designed to remediate some undesirable behavior. Not any more. Coaching now is a targeted behavioral investment. For instance, I collaborate with internal leaders who provide succession planning data, performance reviews, 360 or personality assessments. As an external coach, my role is to accelerate the agenda of senior leaders. There is no better investment in top talent. Retention increases 18 months on average. For an example of the largest global provider of executive coaching, visit CoachSource. We provide scale for any-sized organization, in 45 countries, with over 1,000 expert executive coaches. Results should define your investments, not any silly claims.
Bottom line: Avoid sloppy terms. Call managers what they are. Call coaches what they are. Invest in talent development.
To learn more, call Doug Gray, PCC, at 615-905-1892 or schedule your complimentary, confidential session here .
What are you waiting for?