That’s Me

Over the years I’ve taken at least 15 different personality style assessments… those psychometric ‘tests’ that aren’t graded. Instead, they provide a view of our typical approach to how we see the world, how we behave and what we expect from others.

While I have no idea how the algorithms that make up these things work, each one nailed me, so there must be something to them beyond the power of suggestion. Still, I have debriefed several hundred clients on the one I’m certified in, and they often say, “Why did it ask the same questions over and over and what do those have to do with how I come across to people?”

“Would you rather work indoors or outdoors?”
“Do you daydream occasionally?”
“Do you sometime feel anger?”
“Do you sometime let your mind wander?”
“Are you mad on occasion?”
“Would you rather be outside or inside?”

At the end of each report-out session, I ask: “Did it capture you?” Over the past 13 years only one person, a graphic designer, pushed back. I told her that was a first… and a few months later – during our final meeting with her boss – she laughingly brought it up. Her boss looked at my client and said, “That’s your biggest problem. You are completely unaware of who you are and how you impact everyone in the office.”

At that moment, I remember wanting to climb under the table or disappear; however, the boss was on to something. The employee left the company a short time later, and said during her exit interview, “I’ve come to realize I’d be better off working by myself.”

While personality style assessments aren’t a tool to determine who to hire and fire – and, in fact, using them that way is likely illegal – they are instruments that bring to light our uniqueness. Understanding your natural style provides insight into ways you should continue to do things… and opportunities to adapt those traits that are getting in the way of your success.

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Be Curious

Part II of II

In order for a client to self-discover their real needs and the actions they’ll take to address them, it’s important for a coach to stay in inquiry – asking open-ended questions that allow the client to look inward for answers they haven’t yet covered.

Here are examples of powerful questions that work for me:

What do you need to focus on right now?
In the story you just told me, what led you to react that way?
What’s the impact on others when you do that?
What’s behind that?
What’s getting in the way?
What part of this do you control?
How would you prioritize the options you just told me?
How realistic is that timetable?
What If you decided to do it this month instead of next quarter?
Who could help you?
Who else is involved in that decision?
What else could you do? (pause) And then what?
What have you written down so far?
Which of these are you most committed to doing?
On a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high), what’s the likelihood you’ll do it?
What would it take to turn that 7 into an 8?
How will you hold yourself accountable?
How will you know when you’ve reached that goal?

It takes practice to continue asking powerful questions and not slip into a disguised suggestion: “Have you considered…?” While you never want to make the other person feel they’re being interrogated, remaining silent and allowing them time to think often leads to better decisions than you might have offered.

My favorite coaching sessions begin when a client says, “I don’t have much today.” I’ll say, “What’s one thing you thought about this morning that’s still on your mind?” That opens up a dialogue and usually ends with a “Wow!” or “Who knew I had so much to discuss.”

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Clear Role

Part I of II

I ventured out this week for a much overdue, pandemic-delayed trip to the eye doctor. Afterward, while being fitted for new glasses, the optician asked what I do for a living. When I said, “I’m an executive coach,” he responded, “Oh, so you’re a consultant.”

This is a common misperception, as many people consider the two interchangeable. However, the big difference is consultants give advice, while coaches stay in inquiry – asking powerful questions that allow clients to determine their own actions.

[Note: There are some coaches who never answer a client’s question; however, I don’t draw such a firm line. If a client says, “What color is the grass?” there are coaches who will respond, “What color do you think it is?” That seems like a waste of valuable coaching time, so I say, “Most people think it’s green. What’s the reason you asked?”]

To help others better understand my profession, I’ll use the analogy of a six-year-old asking to learn to ride a bike… and include a couple of other disciplines for fun:

“A mentor would say, ‘Let me tell you about the time I learned to ride a bike.’ A therapist would say, ‘What happened when you were a four-year-old that is preventing you from riding this bike?’ A consultant would take the bike apart, put it back together, create a multi-page document, hand it to the kid and say, ‘That’s how you ride a bike.’ Me? I say, ‘What have you seen other kids do?’ and ask some more questions to discover what the youngster already knows – then give them an encouraging push.

Basically, a consultant’s role is to solve clients’ problems, while a coach works with them to explore what they want and discover from within how they’ll get there.

Next: Powerful Questions

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Me First

I was oblivious to any racism at my high school in the late 70’s. My experience was on bus rides with the basketball team, as we celebrated winning most of our games – including a state championship our senior year – by loudly playing music by the Commodores, Brick, Parliament, Ohio Players and Brothers Johnson on postgame return trips to school.

I reflected on those times the past two weeks and realized I didn’t live up to how I was raised and my own expectations about equality.

There was the poem someone shared our senior year. It was titled ‘De Black Speckled Banner.’ I passed it along.

There were jokes by others I laughed at that made white people look superior. I retold them.

There were times white friends said something and I knew it was derogatory and I should have spoken up. I kept quiet.

Because of my career journey, I have worked with people who didn’t look and think just like me. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Jew. Muslim. Hindu. Buddhist. Mormon. Atheist. LGBTQ+.

I’ve always believed I am not a racist. That my experiences and the people I met along the way give me a wide and open view of humanity. That living a life based on the teaching of ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ makes me unbiased.

Then… George Floyd.

After many conversations since with my wife and the two adult daughters living with us during these socially distanced times. After reading numerous articles. After watching lots of videos. After looking deep inside and acknowledging white privilege. After considering 400 years of this country’s history.

I looked in the mirror and said, “My silence is racist.”

So I’ve been sharing a lot of links with my white friends. Most of them are open to having dialogue so they, too, can better understand the experiences of those who don’t look like us, weren’t raised like us, haven’t had our same advantages. A couple pushed back and said all the protests are a ‘narrative by the left-leaning media.’ One told me to stop sending him things because he doesn’t want to think about it.

I can’t control how people react. I can’t make people think differently. I can’t change people. However, I can’t remain silent any longer. I will continue to share. Continue to challenge. Continue to move the conversation forward. Perhaps I won’t have any impact on anyone else. I know it will make a difference in me.

The world changed May 25. I am changing too.

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Culture Stars

Celebrities are often criticized for stating their opinions – a majority leaning to one side of the political spectrum – while living lavish lifestyles. “Stick with acting and keep quiet.” “If you don’t like America, move somewhere else.” “I don’t see you out helping the poor; put your money where your mouth is.”

During the past many weeks, though, it’s nice to see famous folks donating their time and talents (and maybe even treasures) to raise money for those impacted by COVID-19, especially health care workers. From Broadway stars singing in unison in their social-distanced homes, to movie stars voicing over pictures from the front lines, to TV stars reprising iconic roles – like Tony Shaloub as ‘Monk’ – so many are trying to be a ray of light during these difficult days.

A personal favorite of ours, Matthew McConaughey, Minister of Culture for the University of Texas, agreed to hold a chat forum on The Athletic last month. Technical difficulties caused it to start a half hour late. While a lot of celebrities would have immediately thrown blame, ‘Hey, I was here… not my fault,’ the Academy Award winner who teaches acting to UT students, typed: “McConaughey here—tardy for class… excuse me—password glitch—what up—let’s jam”

There’s a good chance when we finally come out of this, human nature kicks in and we’re back to our same old habits. On the other hand, perhaps we’ll have new appreciation for each other and the challenges we face together. It would be great if that respect and concern carries over and continues in the new normal.

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