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W.A.I.T. for Leadership

listening-185

Is there someone in your life who talks incessantly and with whom it’s hard to get a word in edgewise? I can think of a few. I can also recall times when I talked too much and over-powered a simple conversation. How does that much talking impact a professional relationship?

People often think that in order to build relationships, they need to talk about themselves, and impress people with the great things they’ve accomplished. In reality that behaviour makes them look like braggarts; self-centered individuals only interested in themselves. We may do it when others share an intimate story about themselves and we jump in with a similar story thinking that it’s a way to make a connection.   In reality, this behaviour puts others off, and we are thought of as someone who doesn’t care enough about others to listen to what they have to say.

The acronym ‘WAIT’ is an excellent reminder. It stands for “Why Am I Talking?” and is a great acronym to keep in mind when we are working with or socializing with people. ‘WAIT’ reminds us of the impact of someone talking incessantly and making it hard for others to get a word in edgewise.

Successful leaders and people who cultivate strong relationships know that listening is extremely powerful. Relationships are built on the reciprocity of give and take. When one listens deeply to another, the other individual feels valued, appreciated and taken seriously. Listening deeply often means silence on the listener’s part for extended periods of time and then asking questions that further the discussion. The person you are working with will appreciate the relationship more when you listen rather than talk.

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Change Your Thoughts to Create the Life You Desire in 2015

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Hard to believe it is 2015! After the ‘busy’ness of the holiday season, every time I log onto my computer or open the newspaper, I see article after article about setting New Year’s resolutions. I know from experience that resolutions are just plain hard to keep, and often times I am sabotaged by negatives, thinking that I could not have accomplished that goal anyway.

Over the last year, I was determined to establish a website for Aldebaran Coaching and Consulting. I regularly thought about my son crafting the site for me because there was no way I could do that. Then my partner suggested that I try to do it and my son provided support for the idea. One weekend, I got into WordPress and started to construct AldebaranCoaching.ca. Check it out!  I never thought about myself as having many technological skills, and I proved myself wrong. I can’t do everything on a computer, but I now think of myself as having a good amount of technological proficiency.

Research has shown us that our thoughts and feelings greatly influence our actions. Our brains have the propensity to hang onto negative thoughts. This year I am going to resist that propensity and think of myself as a successful ‘Executive and Leadership Coach’. I still fall back on thinking that I am just a retired educator pursuing a dream late in life; I can’t possibly be a successful small business owner with a credential in coaching. See, I am doing it again.

So, here is my simple plan.

  • When I catch myself in thoughts that support my positive belief about my business, I am going to savour those moments so that the positive thinking embeds itself in my brain.
  • On a daily basis, I am going to look for the successful actions I have accomplished that support my business and again, celebrate those small deeds.
  • When I do think negatively, the question I will ask myself is “Who would I be without that thought?”

My goal is to be the best coach I can be and I know that by thinking of myself as a successful Executive and Leadership Coach, I am creating the life I want to have. Happy 2015! How will you think about the life you want to create for yourself?

I Couldn’t Watch!

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Nik Wallenda, that is, when he was crossing between two skyscrapers on a high wire tightrope in the windy city of Chicago. Nik acknowledged that there was wind and it was cool but declared it wasn’t unbearable.  Heights make me nervous and I have been known not to stand too close to windows in high-rises or even the 10th floor of a hotel room! I couldn’t fathom what he was trying to prove! I watched the television with squinted eyes, closing them and looking away on occasion as Nik successfully made it with a blindfold on the second crossing.

The next day I listened to an interview with Nik. He mentioned having moments where yes, the wind blew and caught him and he had to re-establish his balance, but what he added was very insightful. “I always keep the end goal in mind”. Wow! If Nik Wallenda can walk across a tightrope and maintain his cool by keeping the end goal in mind, we as leaders should be able to do the same.

When Nik completed his crossing, he had a celebratory dinner with his family then went back to the site and helped his team put equipment away so that the streets of Chicago were open again in the morning. Nice touch!

It has been said that the anticipation of doing something fearful or challenging is always worse than actually doing it. When we do try something that takes us out of our comfort zone, keeping the end goal in mind helps us get through the terrifying parts. When we actually step out to reach that vision, our skills naturally come forward and the fear subsides. And when we do reach that goal, not only does it feel exhilarating, but also we wonder how it happened so quickly. As leaders, if our vision is compelling and we have communicated that clearly and consistently, we will get there whether we cross tightropes or not.

Sitting On The “TOP” Of An Organization

Sitting on Roof of Cottage

I love summer! And I am grateful that I can spend a good chunk of time at our cottage located in the Canadian Shield close to Kenora, ON. It’s a great change for someone from the Prairies and Regina. Here in the shield, trees get in the way of our view, unlike the poplar bluffs at home that still allow one to see for miles and miles. I love the rock, the beach, the pristine water and the wildlife. The hummingbirds, squirrels and occasional other wildlife provide our entertainment. The peace of this place is great for the soul and allows me to rejuvenate, remember what’s really important and begin to plan for another fall and winter season.

I had to clean the eave troughs in July and I do that job right on top of the roof. While I was up there, I took some time to just sit and ponder the beauty of our place. (And take a few pictures) From my perch, I could see and hear squirrels running up and down the trees, a nest of flickers, a nest of crows, and a nest with a noisy pileated woodpecker. My son also took off in the boat attempting to catch a lake trout for dinner.

I couldn’t help but think metaphorically. As a leader, at the top of an organization, sitting on the roof of that cabin was much the same. I could see the ‘busy-ness’ of the ‘employees’ all around me, going about their daily activities, keeping our organization running. The squirrel was nattering about the lack of peanuts, but soon someone came along and replenished the supply on his feeder. No different from someone in the office going to the photocopier and finding it out of paper. Soon enough the paper tray is filled.

Good leaders recognize that their employees have a variety of strengths to do the job and they give them the opportunities to use those strengths. Everyone’s strengths are different and yes, it takes some time and work on the leader’s part to have conversations with and observe staff to learn about their strengths and passions. I could easily pick up what that squirrel wanted to do when I was up on that roof! But once staff knows the vision of the organization and are able to do their job, the organization runs pretty smoothly. Give employees some say in their work, empower them to make choices and not only does the organization run smoothly, but also the staff is happy! The leader can ‘sit on top of that roof’, accomplish their own duties and think about the next steps towards the organization’s vision. Yes, he or she has to interact and challenge individuals, but that’s a topic for another blog!

 

Train Them To Take Over Your Job!

Leadership Development is all about growing your people to take over your job. I love the Jack Welch quote on my web page- “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” I love it because I believe so much in learning. And so often when leaders begin to support others in their growth as leaders, those employees are able to develop in their ability to take on greater and more responsible roles in an organization. When people are given the opportunity to learn and grow, they want to aspire to greater challenges. The desire to continue learning becomes part of who they are as an employee.

Coaching is a great way to develop your people. When individuals are coached, the message you are giving them is that they can figure out issues and opportunities for themselves. Your message to them is that you want them to learn for themselves. When you are confronted by an employee’s question and your first response is to toss out the question “what do you think?” you are demonstrating your faith in their ability. From there, continuing with questions like “how will you accomplish that?” “What might get in your way?” “What supports can I provide?” demonstrate that faith you have in them and their ability. In my experience, coaching is a great way to build a relationship. Leaders really get to know how employees think! Staff members who are coached go way beyond the expectations within their job because they feel empowered.

A leaders’ role is also about being an effective listener. Your employees love to be listened to, and when you model that behaviour, they listen to others as well. By listening to individuals, you demonstrate to them their value to the organization and especially how you value them as a person. Remember that you might not always like what you hear from them, so keep your emotions in check – leaders need to hear it all even if it is feedback for you personally. If you don’t give employees the opportunity to say it all, or you react negatively, you may inhibit them from providing you with this type of information in the future. Listening really means putting your agenda aside and being willing to hear it all from your employees. The value employee’s feel when they are listened to encourages them to keep learning and growing.

I believe strongly that a leader’s greatest role is to develop people within the organization. Coaching and listening are only two of the ways that a leader can develop people. In future blogs, I will explore other ways, too. Stay tuned!!

Why I Love Coaching!

I consider myself lucky! I had a great career in Education and worked with fantastic people. Others who loved to learn and grow surrounded me and I was constantly inspired by others who ‘coached’ me to be the best I could be. Coaching is one of the best ways, I believe, to support people in learning and growing.

For nine years, I worked in a school division where coaching was foundational to the work we did. All of those who supervised staff were trained in Cognitive Coaching. When we amalgamated with two other school divisions, coaching became central to our supervision and evaluation process.

What did we experience? Leaders who really wanted to grow leaders! It became central to the culture of the organization that we would have those who supervised others inspire staff to find within themselves the strength to be the best they can be – whatever was their role. It wasn’t perfect, but it was positive, promoted growth and life-long learning and staff were engaged in their work! I saw it in the staff with whom I worked most closely. Our Human Resources department was small, but when given the opportunity to create their own meaning in their work, have some input and make decisions on their own, they really worked hard and went way beyond anything that was expected of them.

Coaching works because the message from leaders is that they believe staff are capable and can figure out situations for themselves. Coaching guides people to ‘think’ and resolve issues, or seek opportunities in their work. It literally ‘takes the monkey off the back’ of the leader. When staff came forward with questions, the first response from the leader was often ‘what do you think?’ A conversation that included further coaching questions would follow, and in the end, the staff member would leave feeling empowered to carry on with their work.

There aren’t many things more rewarding than working with people who love their jobs and take ownership for the work they do. Using a ‘coach approach’ is a great way to create this type of culture.

Welcome to Aldebaran!

This is my first attempt at writing a blog!  Since registering my company Aldebaran Coaching and Consulting, I have wanted to share with people my passion for coaching, leadership and leadership development!  I love to read about all three, facilitate learning and talk about what really makes a good leader.   I regularly find great articles on Twitter and LinkedIn that I share with followers and contacts.  My twitter name is @AldebaranSherri and I am on LinkedIn as well – Sherri Stephanson.

I hope that you will be patient with me as I start to create ‘stuff’ about those topics here in my blog.  When I worked in education, my colleagues and I would regularly ‘steal’ material from each other, change it up if we wanted and create new ideas from the synergy of working together.  I loved that work!  I would love to hear from you and what you are thinking about a variety of topics.  In that way, perhaps we can create some synergy as well!