In Celebration of Motherhood: The Ultimate Leadership Role

May 12 , 2019 •  7 minute read • by Saeed


“Mothers who work full time – they are the real heroes.” Kate Winslet

In 1936, the US was gripped by the Great Depression and one photographer, Dorothea Lange, decided to abandon her portrait and studio work to document the suffering she was witnessing all around her.

As Lange was driving through Nipomo California on a mild March day, she passed by a pea pickers camp but continued to drive on tired from her day’s work. But something mysterious nagged at her and she turned around after initially driving 20 miles past the camp. Photographers know this nagging feeling all too well. Something unbeknownst to her was beckoning her back.

As it turned out, the image she would snap of Florence Owens Thompson, Migrant Mother, would become the most iconic photo of the Depression and arguably of the 20th century. Lange spent 10 minutes and shot six images. In the final image Migrant Mother gazes into the distance with all the suffering and weariness of poverty upon her face juxtaposed with a clear sense of dignity and grit. Her children cowering behind her for protection communicate all the strength of family, motherhood, and yes, leadership.

She is on her own.

In contemporary U.S. society, leadership continues to be viewed as a masculine activity. Yet, in a study of 60 women leaders (Erkut & Winds of Change Foundation, 2001) close to 40% of prominent women from a variety of fields spontaneously made reference to motherhood when describing a good leader or leadership training. This is not to say that fathers don’t embody some or all of these qualities or to suggest that it is necessary for women to be mothers to become effective leaders. Rather, it is simply an acknowledgement of the role of motherhood and the significance of the traits mothers exhibit universally as it pertains to leadership.

  1. On modeling the way: Moms lead their children every day. As the old adage goes, children follow what you do and not what you say and the same holds true for leadership. The best leaders are role models first and your first role model is your mom.
  2. On being a servant leader: While servant leadership is a hot topic in leadership circles today, it is actually a timeless concept practiced by mothers everywhere. The concept is rooted in the quality and trait of those leaders who want to serve first and no-one embodies this better than your mom.
  3. On emphasizing growth and development: Who is more invested in your growth and development than your mom? Who has coached you through your life’s struggles and always kept encouraging you to persevere and succeed? You guessed it. Mom. It is her encouragement and inspiration that has helped you grow and flourish.
  4. On communicating core values: The best leaders consistently communicate the core values of the organization and live those values. Values are in your DNA and they were probably passed onto to you by your mother first and foremost.
  5. On fostering purpose and passion: Studies have shown that people are at their best when they are passionate about what they are doing and when they have tapped into their life purpose. Leaders (and mothers) unleash the enthusiasm of their followers (and their children) with stories and passions of their own and encourage you to lead purposeful and heart-centered lives.
  6. On fostering health and well being: The best leaders know that people are not assets. They are human beings. Without them, there is no organization. The health and well-being of your team or organization is dependent on the health and well-being of its members. The best leaders know that and so does your mom.
  7. On creating communities: Collaborative leaders understand that one of their more important roles is to create communities. Leadership is the result of a social contract and only occurs in a social framework where you influence the direction people are going in and unite them in accomplishing a common goal. I am willing to bet that it’s your mom that’s at the center of the community created around your family.
  8. On demonstrating grit: Mothers (and the best leaders) are tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people. In her book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” Angela Duckworth illustrates how grit matters just as much, if not more, than both talent and luck to achieving extraordinary things. This, for me, is the enduring legacy of Migrant Mother.

A Final Word:

When it was first published, the image of Migrant Mother sparked a flurry of philanthropy but no one ever knew what had happened to Florence Thompson. As it turns out, a reporter discovered her living in a trailer park outside Modesto California in 1978. She was 75 years old. She married at 17 and when she was 28 and pregnant with her sixth child, her husband died of tuberculosis. That’s why he wasn’t in the iconic picture. Thereafter, she would put her babies in bags and carry them around as she worked the fields. Maintaining her dignity throughout her ordeal, she was initially reluctant to allow Lange to photograph her and her family as specimens of poverty. In 1983 Thompson suffered a stroke and was unable to pay her hospital bills. Her children used her identity as Migrant Mother to raise the funds she needed to pay her expenses. She died soon after the stroke but her dignity always endured and does to this day as a symbol of motherhood and humanity in the face of extreme adversity.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Are managers leaders? Are leaders managers?

May 6 , 2019 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

The debate about management vs. leadership is a long standing one in organizational development literature. The terms “management” and “leadership” are often interchanged. Some, view management as distinct from leadership as day is from night. One key distinction often made between management and leadership is that as managers, we manage things (physical assets, processes, and systems) and as leaders, we lead people (customers, external and internal partners).

This is a false distinction.

While it is important to recognize the differences between leadership and management, it is also important to appreciate that the two have complementary strengths, as well. In fact, both are necessary for a high-performance organization. The truth is managers need to be good leaders – their people need vision, consideration, and guidance! And leaders need to be good managers of the resources entrusted to them!

So how do you do both?

  1. Be Mission Oriented: Never lose sight of the mission, purpose, and results you need to achieve. Put out the fires, yes, but try not to be distracted and forced into applying your energy in different directions. While these difficulties often need to be attended to, don’t allow them to diffuse your impact.
  2. Shoot for the Moon: Almost anyone can achieve easy goals. But what is your competition aiming for? Good leaders use their visioning skills to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals with a thorough understanding of how to reach them… not with reckless abandon. Good managers set up systems to help their people achieve the goals.
  3. Take the coach approach: good leaders and managers are also good coaches. They know that there are teaching moments and learning opportunities around every corner and they keep a pulse on their employees levels of engagement through structured coaching conversations. Not only must you coach your people, you must also change the culture to a mindset of a learning organization – a coaching culture if you will. You cannot be the only coach — the entire organization needs to know the skills, have the technologies, and create the atmosphere that allows people to help develop others through both formal and informal experiences.
  4. Be a role model: At the end of the day, people watch what you do, not what you say. Remember always that you are a role model of the organization who sets the standard by being a person of good character, knowing your job, and doing all that matters to advance the work. The standards you set are the standards that will be followed.
  5. Create inclusive environments: Diversity makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. It is about empowering people by understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person. Mastering diversity leads to inclusion where all people feel they are highly valued for their uniqueness. In turn, the organization benefits from the synergistic effects of a cohesive team who bring an array of experiences to the table.

A Final Word

In order for you to engage your staff in providing the best service to your customers, clients or partners, you must enroll them in your vision and align their perceptions and behaviors. You need to get them excited about where you are taking them while making sure they know what’s in it for them. With smaller organizations, the challenge lies in making sure you are both leading your team as well as managing your day to day operations. Those who are able to do both, will create a competitive advantage. Both management and leadership are needed to make teams and organizations successful. Trying to decide which is more important, is like trying to decide whether the front or back wheel is more important to balancing a bicycle.

Good luck.

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Why It’s Time to Ditch Your Performance Reviews

April 10 , 2019 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” 

-Ken Blanchard

Most employees look forward to their performance review the way they look forward to a funeral. They are equally dreaded by the managers who deliver them.

Despite the goal, you give employees constructive feedback about their work to encourage individual performance, most are a dreary exercise in further disillusionment, disconnection and demoralization.

That’s because in many organizations today, reviews aren’t really designed to help employees grow; they’re designed to manage promotions and raises or to go through the motions of performance management and accountability.

Instead, the performance management system goal should be to provide on-going coaching and feedback to employees with the aim of developing and improving employee performance and team effectiveness.

This requires that employees receive on-going constructive feedback about their job performance in relation to their goals, their approach to innovation and the opportunities before them to create value.

Compare this to top flight athletes. They don’t receive reviews a couple of times of year.  If they did, they’d fail.  Rather, they receive on-going coaching.  This type of feedback creates an immediate awareness of what they’re doing right and what they need to do to overcome barriers and do even better.

With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to ditch this archaic exercise.

Master the Coaching Conversation

There are progressive companies out there that have moved away from traditional performance reviews, in favor of creating cultures of coaching, feedback, development, and high performance.

Such organizations have managed to re-shape their cultures to ones based on coaching; where everyone in a leadership role is trained on how to coach.  In this way, leaders give their employees constant performance feedback, which in turn, engages employees and creates a desire to continuously improve.

Rather than once or twice yearly, coaching happens throughout the year; possibly every day.  And because it is on-going, it eliminates the need for formal annual appraisals and reviews.

You can begin by incorporating the constructive aspects of reviews in your existing one-on-one meetings as an opportunity for feedback and coaching.  You can dedicate time during these sessions to a discussion on how the person can enhance their own performance and play to their strengths.  In so doing, you remove the unconstructive focus on ratings.

I’ve often heard that managers resist the concept of on-going coaching because they believe it is too time-consuming. Actually, it is quite the opposite.

Managing poor performance is extremely time consuming.

In the traditional system, you have to provide written reviews, spend time with employees to discuss these reviews, monitor progress made based on these reviews and provide corrective feedback as required.

In contrast, on-going coaching might take 5 minutes of a manager’s time every week. Yet it is a powerful force in demonstrating the concern the Manager has for her employee’s development. With such enhanced and regular communication and interaction, corrective measures are more easily and seamlessly applied and results are visible fairly quickly.

You can structure your conversations to first receive an update on the one to three action items agreed to at the last meeting. Second, ask for a success story or a moment of pride. Third, brainstorm either a solution to a problem or an opportunity to pursue. And fourth, agree on one to three action items that the employee will focus on in the coming week.

A Final Word

Coaching conversations are not performance reviews; they are discussions. So talk less and let your employee talk more. Sit back, listen, ask questions for clarity. When it’s your turn to speak, give positive and constructive feedback. Tell your employee what she did well and where you see opportunities for growth. Specific examples are always helpful.

If your employee is doing most of the talking – about her wins and challenges, how she’s learning and growing – then you’ve mastered the art of the coaching conversation.

 

Good Luck.

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

The Single Most Important Communication Skill to Getting What You Want

April 8 , 2019 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

-George Bernard Shaw

Building good relationships in the workplace is imperative to your success. It goes without saying that developing strong communication skills will increase the chance of successful relationships.

Communication skills, broadly speaking, encompass a cluster of skills related to how you articulate your points (assertively, aggressively or submissively), your ability to listen actively, how you ask questions and your non verbal communication i.e. your voice tone, body language and facial expressions, learning how to deal with conflict, presentation skills, giving feedback and so on.

It Starts With How You See Things

It all starts with how you see things. Your beliefs and thoughts, expectations, attitudes to yourself and others –  all have impact on the quality of your interaction with others. They play a key role in whether you are communicating assertively, submissively or aggressively.

If your thoughts are negative about the situation, yourself or the other person, it follows that your emotions will be impacted negatively as well. If you find yourself getting angry, annoyed, nervous, uptight etc., the cause of these negative feelings is rooted in how you think about the situation in the first place. These feelings impact on your behaviors which come across in your communication. And this is the self-fulfilling prophecy that then influences the overall outcome.

How To Communicate More Effectively

Assertive communication is the honest expression of one’s own needs, wants and feelings, while respecting those of the other person. When you communicate assertively, your manner is non-threatening and non-judgmental, and you take responsibility for your own actions. Assertive communication is stating your needs and wants, feelings, opinions and beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways.

Assertive communication is the premier communication skill that can reduce conflict, build your self-confidence and improve relationships in the workplace.

Here are some tips to help you learn to be more assertive:

  • Make the decision to positively assert yourself. Commit to being assertive rather than passive or aggressive and start practicing what that looks like today.
  • Aim for open and honest communication. Remember to respect other people when you are sharing your feelings, wants, needs, beliefs or opinions.
  • Listen actively. Try to understand the other person’s point of view and don’t interrupt when they are explaining it to you.
  • Agree to disagree. Remember that having a different point of view doesn’t mean you are right and the other person is wrong.
  • Avoid guilt trips. Be honest and tell others how you feel or what you want without making accusations or making them feel guilty.
  • Stay calm. Breathe normally, look the person in the eye, keep your face relaxed and speak in a normal voice.
  • Take a problem-solving approach to conflict. Try to see the other person as your friend not your enemy.
  • Practice assertiveness. Talk in an assertive way in front of a mirror or with a friend. Pay attention to your body language as well as to the words you say.
  • Use ‘I’. Stick with statements that include ‘I’ in them such as ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’. Don’t use aggressive language such as ‘you always’ or ‘you never’.
  • Be patient. Being assertive is a skill that needs practice. Remember that you will sometimes do better at it than at other times, but you can always learn from your mistakes.

A final word

Assertive communication style brings many benefits. For example, it can help you to relate to others more genuinely, with less anxiety and resentment. It also gives you more control over your life, and reduces feelings of helplessness. Furthermore, it allows OTHER people the right to live their lives.

Good Luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

5 Steps to Coaching Your Employees to Success (Based on the Co-Active Coaching Model)

March 14, 2019 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“While the big events of our lives create the impetus for change, it is the moment-by- moment choices that mold and shape us.” 

― Karen Kimsey-House, Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead

If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is: making progress at meaningful work. And coaching can help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

To do so, regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential to understand what drives each person.

Unfortunately, many supervisors think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. This is an opportunity missed.

Coaching is a powerful experience that creates a resonant connection with another person and helps them achieve something they care about while helping them become more of who they want to be. If there’s anything an effective, resonant coaching conversation produces, it’s positive energy.

Start today to be a more effective manager by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members. As you resolve to support their ongoing learning and development, here are five key tips to get you started.

1.      Design Your Alliance

First, design and sustain your alliance. While your role as a coach is not to provide answers, supporting your team members’ developmental goals and strategies is essential. But to do so, you need to establish an environment of mutuality and trust. As a coach, you must know how to work with your team member to empower them. This is a process of ‘co-creation’ where the employee also helps create the kind of coach she needs. Here, you can ask questions like:

  • What are you looking for in me as your coach?
  • If this coaching was to be effective, what would it look like?
  • What is the best way for me to challenge you?
  • How do you want me to respond when you have not completed something you wanted me to complete?

The designed alliance is the co-created space within which the coaching takes place. This space is dynamic and evolving so periodically you can check in on your designed alliance to see how it’s working for you. Just like ground rules you may need to add, modify, or delete some of your agreements depending on how the relationship has evolved.

2.      Listen with curiosity: 

Have you ever had the luxurious and deeply validating experience of communicating with someone who is completely focused on you and actively listening to what you have to say with an open mind and an open heart? What does that feel like? That’s coaching. And listening in coaching may be the most important skill set.

You can open a coaching conversation with a question such as “How would you like to grow this month?” Listen with your full attention, and create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up and to think creatively and then follow your curiosity.

3.      Ask, don’t tell.

As a manager, you are used to problem solving. This is fine when you’re clarifying action steps for a project you’re leading or when people come to you asking for advice. But in a coaching conversation, it’s essential to restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Your path is not your employee’s path. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers. This is how people clarify their priorities and devise strategies that resonate with what they care about most and that they will be committed to putting into action.

There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive and stimulate a defensive response. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

  1. Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”
  2. Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”
  3. Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”

The best way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why powerful questions are so critical. And powerful questions are the key to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

4.      Forward the Action

Oftentimes in a coaching conversation, the person you’re coaching will get caught up in their own stories.  While it can provide temporary relief to vent, it doesn’t generate solutions. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations, but then encourage her to think about how to move past them. You might ask, “What is it you really want?” or “Which of the activities you mentioned offer the greatest potential for reaching your goal?” Then, when the employee is settled on an action, ask them what action, if taken, would make the biggest difference in helping them advance towards their goal.

5.      Build accountability.

Last, but not least, it is imperative that the employee follow through on commitments. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness. If your employee plans to network with other potential business partners, for example, give these plans more weight by asking her to identify specific individuals with dates and times and to deliver this information to you by a certain deadline.

A Final Word

If you want to build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak, try establishing regular coaching conversations.

Coaching accelerates progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. It concentrates on where you are today and what you are willing to do to get where you want to be tomorrow. Coaching provides a transformative space for your employee to experience easier and accelerated growth to move them towards their goals. It provides insights and clarity, pattern recognition and interruption, conscious commitment, real time feedback, and accountability.

Join the movement and coach your heart out.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

3 Powerful Ways To Become More Emotionally Resilient at Work

October 31, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind.“

–         Marcus Aurelius

Managing your emotions in the workplace is more important today than it ever has been — because today’s workplace is a challenging place.  A controlling boss, demanding clients, competition with your colleagues, insufficient boundaries between your work life and personal life. Recognizing difficulties, and choosing to learn and to grow from them, does not negate their existence or potency, but establishes them as of a distinct facet of one’s life. Most of us are juggling multiple priorities, sometimes with limited resources. The range of emotions we experience at work is enormous but when we manage our emotions, we’re better able to handle the changes and challenges all jobs bring.

This requires emotional well-being.

1.      It starts with self awareness…

Everything starts with self-awareness. You bring your brain to work. You bring your emotions to work. Feelings drive performance. First, identify common causes of stress for you in the workplace from personal experiences. Determine your levels of personal and work-related stress and recognize the ways you may be contributing unintentionally to your own levels of stress.

Begin by identifying aspects of your personal and professional lifestyle choices in relation to your management of emotional well-being. In other words, examine if you have set yourself up to fail or succeed. Learn to differentiate between positive stress and negative stress and your reactions to each. Cultivate interests outside of work, including activities with good friends. Remember, not all satisfaction comes from work accomplishments.

2.      It develops when you reach for mastery…

Next, define emotional mastery, what it might mean to you and its impact on your work life. Identify different feelings in the past and present and your reactions to those feelings. Remember how you managed them. What worked? What didn’t? Differentiate between groups of emotions to better understand how you are feeling and why. Some emotions present an extra challenge when we encounter them at work. Five hard-to-handle emotions that are common in the workplace that warrant attention include frustration, worry or insecurity, anger, feeling “down”, and dislike.

Any number of workplace situations can cause this: limited promotional opportunities that make us feel stuck in a job or a difficult manager who ignores our suggestion for a process improvement. Frustrations, especially those that are chronic, need to be dealt with early, or the feeling can spiral into anger, a much more difficult emotion to control. Evaluate your emotional debt and discover ways to pay it off. Analyze situations so that your emotions do not sabotage the results you want. Recognize thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with these situations and analyze behavior patterns associated with them so you can begin to head them off at the pass.

3.      It’s put into action when you are intentional…

As you develop awareness and identify patterns, create a personal action plan to implement your learning back at work. Use your mirror listening skills to understand how others are feeling. Identify feelings and the reasons why people feel the way they do. Don’t just think about your positive feelings for others, but act on them. At the same time, recognize when to be assertive in interacting with others but always maintain being respectful. To maintain steadiness and calm, identify rituals that presently exist in your life, classify your rituals according to purpose and stick to them, well, religiously. Learn to express your emotions in appropriate ways.

Be sure to allow yourself to deal with difficult feelings in appropriate ways for the work place. If you feel angry, take the time to consider what may have triggered the feeling and consider actions you could take to diffuse such a situation in the future. You don’t need to pretend you’re not feeling the way you are, but you do need to deal with the emotions so that they do not affect your interactions with others. Give appropriate feedback to clear the air. For example, if a co-worker has said something in a meeting that offended you and this is bothering you, talk with the person about it, preferably soon after the event and in private

Final Word

It is important that your work does not become your life. Maintain support systems outside of work. Talking honestly about your concerns with close friends or your partner can help reduce your anxiety and keep problems in perspective. Choose someone you trust who knows you well enough to give you honest feedback when you need it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends and family, hiring a coach can be a great step in this direction. Talking to a professional coach can help you gain perspective on problems and come up with solutions as well as specific techniques that will help you manage your emotions more effectively. You can also seek support from your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) program, if you have one.

Above all, eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. If you’re well-rested, well-nourished, and physically strong, you’ll have more energy to meet emotional challenges. This will help keep you “emotionally resilient” and help you feel more in control of your emotions and your life.

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I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

8 Steps to Coaching Your Boss to Success

July 3, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The medium is the message.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

Stop pulling your hair out over your boss.

The frustrations of managing the boss-employee relationship come up again and again in my executive coaching sessions. The best way to approach this challenge is to “coach up.”

When you think about it, we’re all private coaches at least some of the time. So why not be more intentional about coaching to help co-create the experience you want to have in your relationships; including the one with your boss.

Let’s first debunk one myth. Coaching up your boss is not a sneaky way to get what you want. The coaching model doesn’t work unless you actually care about the person you’re working with. It doesn’t work unless you have created a partnership and designed your alliance together. You don’t have to love the person you are coaching, but you do have to respect them and care about their well being.

Coaching up means learning and using coaching techniques to promote an authentic, positive, and productive relationship with your most significant professional relationship: your boss. When used effectively, coaching up can enrich mutual understanding and often reduce frustration and stress. In fact, use the ‘coach approach’ in all aspects of your life, and it will quickly become second nature and help you succeed through tough conversations and difficult relationships inside and outside of work. Here is how:

1.   Start with the right mindset: Suspend negative judgments about the boss, whether these are conscious and crystal clear or faint and subtle. Suspending does not mean permanent deletion but temporary hold. If you do not do this, you risk your judgments getting in the way of being truly present and open.

2.   Be Curious: Coaching is all about unleashing your curiosity. That means beinggenuinely curious and interested in your boss’ point of view. That may be hard to do if you are at odds with your boss but it is imperative to put things on the right footing.

3.   Deploy your attention:  This means listen with your full attention and ask clarifying questions when needed. If you disagree, instead of getting defensive (default reaction) try getting even more curious. Ask questions like “What factors are influencing this decision?” or “Please help me understand this.”

4.   Ask artful questions: Ask open-ended questions rather than questions that are answered with “yes” or “no.” We begin our questions with “how” and “what” as often as we can.

5.   Work with, not against the grain: This means attending to your boss’ communication and learning style.  Some learners are visual while others are auditory. Some like big picture information, while others prefer lots of detail; some like crisp bullet points, others like longer pieces; some like to be told after actions have been taken, and some like to know our every step before and during our tasks. If you don’t know your boss’ preferences, it’s time for a curious conversation!

6.   Work towards a win/win: Negotiation is a key business skill to learn. For example, if your boss wants a daily written report, and you don’t have the time to compose that each day, ask if she would accept a weekly written report instead. She may say yes, and she may say no. If she says no, offer another solution that will meet her needs as well as your own.

7.   Seek common ground: Begin by understanding your boss’ values. It does not mean you have to agree or have the same values but understanding what they are is a good first step to learning to co-exist. This can also begin to create a sense of common ground and shared values, on which to build your future relationship.

8.   Communicate clearly and assertively: The challenge with assertive communication is that it takes some education and a little practice, particularly for those who weren’t taught assertive communication growing up. Many people mistake assertiveness for aggressiveness, but assertiveness is actually the balanced middle ground between aggressiveness and passivity. Communicate your requests and needs clearly and with confidence. The right balance is between being humble and respectful, and confident and assertive.

A final word:

While effective leaders know their options and their plans, they are also open to shifting gears if they receive persuasive new information. They know that they may not always have the full picture of what’s involved in the complex challenges of the organization. This is particularly true when working with bosses who have a much broader organizational perspective than we do. As you continue to coach up, you may improve your opinion and feelings about your boss. Even if negative judgments do creep back in from time to time, we have tools to work toward mutual understanding, if we choose to use them. Coaching up isn’t a magic bullet, but it is a very good way to enrich our partnership with the boss—that most significant of all organizational relationships. In the end, coaching up is about forging a partnership with your boss so you can produce your best work. And there is nothing wrong with that equation.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

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As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

2 Easy Steps to Transform from Manager to Coach

March 28, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” ~ Amelia Earhart

At the core, coaching is a more powerful form of communication and engagement. This richer form of communication begins by asking better, well crafted questions that focus not on the problem or the solution but on the individual and their process.

If you are a manager, this means getting off of your agenda for a moment and taking the time to better understand your direct report’s point of view. It means respecting their point of view and then together, co-creating a new possibility that would support your shared goals. It is about providing them with the space as well as the ability to tell you what they want or need. And this can happen during every conversation you have.

Coaching is the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from garden variety supervisors. Here are two steps that form the foundation of coaching to transform you from manager to coach.

Step 1: Ask Powerful Questions

To ensure you have a solid foundation to build from, you will need to start with a baseline of best practices, and then, over time you can make it your own by leveraging your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.

Coaching engages a process of mindful conversation through powerful questions.

The right questions tend to show up naturally and organically within each conversation. The best coaches have attuned their listening skills to find the right question at the most appropriate time to unlock a key insight. This is both an art and a skill that must be practiced over and over to do well.

When this process of mindful inquiry is deployed against problems in a consistent manner not only are the ideas and solutions generated more meaningful, but there is a level of self-reliance and empowerment created in the individual that has lasting impact.

There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive and stimulate a defensive response. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

1. Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”

2. Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”

3. Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”

The best way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why powerful questions are so critical. And powerful questions are the key to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

Step 2: Foster Action and Accountability

Gaining insight into your own process is one side of the coin. It is half the story. The other side is acting on the solutions you generate.

In coaching, the desired solution is generated by the individual, not the coach, as they begin to better understand their own process. The magic of this method of engaging employees is that when they generate the solution, they also own it. And if they own it, we’re more apt to act on it.

Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies solutions and actions towards desired results.  Holding people accountable is about being clear, following up regularly, and having honest conversations when their commitment is wavering. Again, their process is more important than what they did or didn’t do. In coaching, you are always seeking to tap the roots, not swing from branch to branch.

A Final Word

At most companies, coaching isn’t part of what managers are formally trained to do. To foster higher levels of satisfaction and engagement, managers and employees should be having regular communication around growth and development. The best method to do this is coaching. It’s a powerful experience to create a resonant connection with another person and help them to achieve something they care about and to become more of who they want to be.

Without these regular conversations, employee growth is stunted. So is engagement and retention. Starting today, you can be significantly more effective as a manager — and enjoy your job more — by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members.

To do so effectively, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

Starting today, create and sustain a coaching partnership that is focused on moving forward positively, listening deeply, asking powerful questions and building accountability.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How To Create An Effective Coaching Partnership with Lasting Impact

October 31, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Partnership is not a posture but a process – a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.” ~ John F. Kennedy

First of all…

Coaching is not just about techniques and structure. Coaching is about developing an effective partnership with your coachee. If the partnership is missing, no amount of technique, however expert will help. The partnership is there as a formal part of the structure because coaching is successful when you have the commitment and cooperation of your coachee to help them learn a new task or skills, or to improve a particular area of their work.

Coaching is about bringing out what the coachee already knows. But there are times when coaching may require you to give feedback. Feedback is best offered in a non-judgmental way, and offered as an opinion. A coach may need to provide two types of feedback. The first type is if the coachee’s ideas are off course. The second type is if their method of approach or behavior is inhibiting their ability to succeed.

However…

Coaching is not about ‘fixing’ people. A lot of people react negatively to advice or suggestions. Often advice and ideas are rejected because the recipient feels no ownership of them and sees this as threatening or as imposed solutions. Aim to ensure that your coachee has exhausted his or her own ideas before you volunteer yours. In this way your suggestions will be seen as additional thoughts. You don’t always have to have additional ideas. In many cases your coachee may come up with all or more options than you would have considered; in which case a word of praise is a better tool at your disposal.

And most of all…

Coaching is about asking powerful open questions and actively listening to the responses.

Asking questions and active listening are the key skills necessary for coaching. There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

1. Clarifying questions.

2. Creative questions.

3. Process questions.

Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Powerful questions go a long way to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

The bottom line is…

Coaching is a combination of structure and empathy. In order to meet the coaching objectives, be they about leadership, career transitions, or building skills, the art of coaching lies in the ability to manage the human dimensions of the coaching relationship. This takes a foundation of trust, credibility, and authentic relationship. The coaching partnership realizes lasting impact as a result of this foundation, which is built over time. The more trust the coach can generate, the more the coachee can accomplish. Success shouldn’t be measured by how well the coachee performs while the coach is there to help, but rather by sustainable behavioral change long after the coach is gone.

Independence from the coach is the ultimate goal.

To get started…

1.      Establish ground rules for the relationship.

2.      Ensure buy-in.

3.      Secure commitment.

4.      Establish a definition of success for the relationship

5.      Agree on frequency and method of communication.

6.      Have a plan for progress checks to know when the coaching relationship is over or when it needs to be re-evaluated.

And a final word…

Coaching is about intentions, understanding, engagement, and lasting impact. The coach must have a clear understanding of what needs to be worked on by first developing a thorough understanding of the context, and then focusing on behaviors that produce desired outcomes. Body language and the emotional intelligence to be able to read it are just as important as the coaching format or structure. The coach must demonstrate genuine interest through eye contact, posture and attentiveness. The self-awareness and emotional intelligence of the coach is as important as that of the coachee.

Therein lies the symbiotic relationship between the two – the ultimate success of which is measured by the results achieved in partnership.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.