Sunday, June 29, 2008

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Asking questions is the other key skill a coach uses.
The art of inquiry is about discovery. Not only does a coach learn more about their client when they listen to an answer, but the client learns more about who they are. They consider their answer and then articulate what they are thinking and feeling. Obviously, as a coach I'm looking for honest responses from my clients, so how I word my questions is really crucial.

When someone asks me a question it can generate various emotions. Depending on the question, I might feel like I'm being interrogated. A question like "Why did you do that?" may cause me to react with discomfort or defensiveness. Or I might be pleased to answer a question because it allows me to express an opinion or give a statement about how I feel. "What did you think of the movie?" generates that type of emotion.

Other questions may be pretty neutral. Being asked, "What time is it?" doesn't stir up much emotional response for me.

The way we word a question can make all the difference in the world. Our questions greatly determine the direction of the conversation. If someone says to me, "How did you go about making that decision?" or "What thought processes brought you to that decision?" I will no doubt have less anxiety and feel more free to give an answer without fear or embarrassment.

Coaches place great importance on developing their inquiry skills so they can learn as much as possible about their clients. And the client benefits too.

Check out my previous blog entry about the other key skill of a coach....listening.

© Anatoly Tiplyashin |

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thanks for Listening

I just spent a couple hours listening to a friend. I wanted to gain a better understanding of something she's going through so I asked questions and listened to her responses. When I left the appointment I realized some of my assumptions had changed. I had a greater understanding of what she was experiencing and her thought processes.

Listening is hard work. I have to set aside uttering my thoughts and focus on what they are expressing. That means I hold off on responding to them immediately and just let them talk. When I went through my coach training, listening was one of the two basic skills (asking questions being the other one,) that we studied and practiced.

I realized fairly quickly in my conversations with friends and acquaintances, that there are few people who know how to listen without interjecting their thoughts or giving advice. Many of us are programmed to comment after someone says a few sentences. Every day I realize what a discipline it is for me to really listen to someone without throwing in my "take" on their situation. Breaking old patterns is a challenge.

In my coaching business I have to be careful not to give advice. To do so would be crossing the line into therapy. Instead I ask questions of clients which allow them to break down the issue into manageable pieces and to come to their own decision. Questions like "What would you like the end result to be?" or "Which of the options you've talked about are you most comfortable with?" help people move ahead when they are indecisive about something in their life.

If I have an observation I don't think they have considered, I should ask, "Would it be alright if I shared an observation with you?" People have always said "yes" (so far) when I submit that question. When I ask permission it shows I have a respect for their feelings and intellect and doesn't put me in a place of "talking down to them" as if I'm an expert on their life.

So I continue to hone my listening skills, both when coaching clients and with my friends and family.

Reflections on Tim

I'm still thinking about Tim Russert and his impact in the world. God allowed him to be taken in the prime of his life. Sometimes I wonder about God's timing. Tim could have lived another 30 years but would we have heard the same message we're hearing now?

It was an election year so people were paying more attention to Tim's words. He had published two successful books in recent years, just watched his son graduate from college, enjoyed a few days in Rome with his family, and suddenly his life on earth is over. But the lasting fragrance of Tim's life is lingering in the hearts and minds of many of us. It's interesting that his media friends thought he was a great colleague. But what they are really talking about is how much they will miss their friend, Tim. They recall the little things he did for them that showed he cared...little stuff like visiting their sick family members, a hand on their shoulder, a good laugh, and the list goes on.

His wife said she had a fleeting thought when saying goodbye to him as he left Rome, that she needed to hug him one more time because she may not see him again. Thank you God, for giving her that nudge to just love him one more time. Interesting how God can prepare us for things and we don't even realize it at the time.

I want people to know I care in those little ways that add up to a lifetime of demonstrating my love for others. I want to make each moment one of expressing my faith. God, help me not to miss those little opportunities.


© Alain |

Friday, June 13, 2008

Influence...leaving an impression

"The older I get the smarter my father seems to get. Hardly a day goes by when I don't remember how much Big Russ taught me."*

Tim Russert (1950-2008) speaking about his father who he affectionately referred to as "Big Russ."

I was sitting in the Main Street Grill today in Cambria, California when across the large mounted TV screen came the message that NBC news journalist Tim Russert had died. It was sudden and so untimely. I'm not much of a TV network news person. I watch cable news shows most of the time. But I was always fascinated by his interviews. He asked really hard questions but managed to ask them with a smile and a respectfulness seldom present in other journalists. Even though I thought his questions often intensely searing, he always managed to seem warm and agreeable.

Tim had a high regard for the "Greatest Generation," especially his own father, Tim Russert, Sr. He wrote a book about his relationship with his Dad and the things he learned from him called "Big Russ and Me."

Tim Russert was in a position to influence many millions of people with his words and demeanor. We may not have a high profile job as Tim Russert did, but we do have an influence on many people during the course of our lives.

You and I have touched the lives of the old, (our grandparents,) from our birth on and in our later years we will touch the lives of the very young, (our grandchildren or great grandchildren.) I find that concept very fascinating. We impact the world we touch with our smiles, our words, and how we invest our time and our money.

On days like this I think about my impact in the world and what it could be.

*Russert, Tim, Big Russ and Me, Miramax, 2004


I'm still thinking about transitions and the ones people are in currently because of the gas prices. I know people who are re-thinking jobs and even careers based on the price of gasoline. Others may find themselves changing their spending habits. They may choose to eliminate or cut down on other expenditures such as their gourmet morning coffee drink, eating out, having their shirts cleaned and pressed by a dry cleaner, weekend getaways or giving to charities. My driving habits are being impacted. I don't drive anywhere for just one outing/event anymore. I make multiple stops and re-arrange my schedule to minimize driving.

We in Southern California are also talking about the water supply and the "R" word..."Rationing." Cutting back on our water usage probably should have been put into practice a few years ago. Those of us who live here are listening to our state officials talk about rationing being something we must take seriously now.

In other words, the transition needs to be immediate. This means we all have to change behaviors which isn't easy to do in a short frame of time. Transitions involve letting go of something and embracing some type of new beginning. Instead of looking at transition and change as though it were some type of doom, what would happen we if viewed it as the beginning of something good? It could not only be "good for us" but something we might, in reality, enjoy? We tend to view transition with a sense of loss because of having to let go, but could there be an upside waiting for us?

Photo: Ian Britton,

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What NOT to say about your ex-boss

Scott McClelland burned his bridges big time last week when his book criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq was released.

At first the media pounced on the news from a former White House insider with great glee. However, now the burning embers are cooling quickly as people assess his underlying motivations for writing the book. While his willingness to give his opinions will most likely be used to fuel the growing anger with the current administration, how will history define Scott McClelland? What will the war critics do with Scott McClelland once they are done with his insider knowledge? That remains to be seen.

There are a number of ways to deal with a manager you don't agree with.
1. Arrange to communicate with your employer in an attempt to get them to see issues from a different perspective. Apparently, McClelland didn't go for this option as his book surprised everyone in the administration.

2. Assess your boss's personality and leadership style and look for ways to effect change in a manner which will engage them positively. Being a team player can earn you the right to speak up and wage your argument in a rational manner.

3. Resign your position accepting the fact that there is no way you can stay "on board" with the status quo.

If your attempts to encourage change in the workplace have failed, it can be a challenge to leave with grace. Giving an appropriate length of notice, cooperating with the training of your replacement, and exiting with a spirit of gratitude and good will are positive ways to leave a position with nobility.

It might be good to re-think criticizing your boss once you exit the door. You may need to call on them for a reference at some point although you can't anticipate ever doing so at this moment. And even though you may not envision it presently, you may want to use their services in the future. Who knows, your former employer may re-think matters and seek your expertise on some level in the future.

Wearing sour grapes is never becoming, nor is trading your integrity for the dollar sign.

Photo: PaulPaladin/