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

7 Ways to Succeed in Any Role by Using Leadership Skills

January 30, 2019 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is an action and example.” 

Cory Booker

Leadership is what makes an individual effective and successful at any job. At the most basic level, being a leader is about positively impacting the people around you. The characteristics of a good leader include the ability to anticipate problems and solve them when they arise, to ‘read’ challenging situations, take initiative, and simply exhibit virtue that inspires others to be their best. In leadership, character comes first. To be successful in any role, let your leadership qualities permeate and show through more than just one approach: be resourceful, be composed during a crisis, and be flexible when dealing with colleagues and clients.

Here are a few more leadership lessons applicable to any role:

1.      Be a Problem Solver

The core responsibility of any leader is to resolve organizational issues at every level. This comes by analyzing the entire situation logically and with a cool head. The consequence of this would be a fast action-oriented decision that would work in the best interest of the organization and its stakeholders. It is the problem-solving skill that helps any leader to analyze and anticipate trends and issues. It is what makes a leader strategic and effective. Due to the successful turn-around of any problem, a leader will inspire the team while cultivating an image of reliability and credibility thereby earning the respect of all.

2.      Focus deeply on a few issues

Leaders don’t go wide, they go deep. Instead of picking 16 topics to cover in a shallow way, leaders pick a small number of issues that they want to own, and go deep on them developing expertise along the way. By contrast, some try to address a large number of issues and end up with mediocre or poor performance. When it comes to achievement, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity. Diving in shallow waters does not bring you the big fish.

3.      Always Show Initiative

A common scenario in any industry is when you are faced with a problem but it’s not clear whose job it is to fix it. When faced with such a challenge, a common reaction is to say that this is ‘not my job.’ It is imperative in such moments that you are able to display traits that will demonstrate why you were hired in the first place. This means demonstrating qualities of an effective leader including confidence, foresight, and the willingness to take the initiative to resolve the situation. By following these, you will not only get to the root cause of any potential problem but more importantly avoid unnecessary extra work. Displaying attention to detail and taking initiative shows that you are trustworthy, diligent, and dependable – and above all – you are a leader.

4.      Put People First

An effective leader is one that assesses a situation clear of prejudice and examines everything with an open mind through an objective outlook. In any job, it is necessary to interact with everyone accordingly. Underestimating the importance of relationship is a huge mistake. It is reckless to compromise a relationship to score a point with the boss. Throwing your team members under the bus is an unethical and unprofessional act. Great leaders put great stock into all their relationships because ultimately, they know it contributes to them being more effective at the different roles they have to perform.

5.      Have High Standards, Even Higher Values

Demonstrating strong values is one of the most important leadership competencies in the workplace. You shouldn’t throw your values out the window just to make a job easier. Not upholding certain ethics, standards, and values will lead to all sorts of issues. To put it simply, allowing for such to happen is unbecoming of a leader in any role. Values-driven leaders lead from a deep sense of purpose and service to others demonstrating strong values such as honestly, integrity, excellence, courage, humility, trust, and care for people and planet.

6.      Become a Communication Ninja

All great leaders are good communicators. They understand how to get a point across, describe the company vision to their employees, make sure daily tasks are getting done, facilitate office conversations, and know when it’s the right time or the wrong time for a meeting. It takes an investment of time, emotion, and effort to be a good communicator. It’s the job of the leader to rally and regroup the troops when times are tough and devise better plans that will reap better result. Being an effective communicator will inspire your team to work harder, possibly even going beyond their job responsibilities. After all, cohesive teamwork, in any and every shape and form, translates to more work done.

7.      Embrace radical accountability

We tend to think of accountability as something that is good for others but not ourselves.  But a successful leader is all about accountability, especially when results regarding certain projects are not favorable or when their own limitations are holding a project back. Most people are not prepared for the behavior changes that are required of them to be radically accountable. If you care about gaining the trust of others, you have to not just tolerate, but to embrace a deeper level of scrutiny and be able to engage in authentic feedback. This type of transparency and authenticity builds trust. Trust becomes the foundation of great teamwork and great relationships. We tend to hide our weaknesses never exposing them to the light. But by exposing them to the light, we have the opportunity to liberate ourselves from those limitations that we might otherwise subconsciously identify with. Accountability is a condition that is created in the interior of our relationships. Accountability is the ability to take into account the experience of the other and to own responsibility for the outcomes you have set out to achieve.

A Final Word

The Importance of leadership skills cannot be emphasized enough. It forms a strong foundation for your career success as well as the success of any team or organization. Adopting and nurturing these qualities will not only help you survive as an employee but also show that you are in fact a leader! It will help you to thrive within your role and with your team. All the factors above contribute to a well-rounded and highly effective leader. Consider each of these elements and incorporate them into your daily work as you move forward into becoming the best leader you can be.

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.

Why Collaboration is Not Always the Answer

January 25, 2019 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


You’ve watched ants at work. You’ve seen them collaborating around a shared goal. Ants are social insects and outnumber humans a million to one. They would rule the world if they could strategically switch mindsets between teamwork and collaboration.

We all think we understand what collaboration is, we all think we understand what it means, if this is true then how come we constantly read accounts of it failing? Well this is not the case. Collaboration is misunderstood and overused.

As a matter of fact, it’s common for people to use the terms collaboration and teamwork interchangeably. It’s common, but it’s wrong.

Teamwork – Collaboration, What’s the Difference?

Teamwork

Teams are created usually by a manager who is looking for a specific single result. A group of people with the required skills are assembled. Tasks, timelines, goals, and success measures are created and the team is off and running. Their actions are interdependent, but are fully committed to the result articulated by the manager.

For the most part, as long as the team is provided with good leadership and has the project management skills to and coordinate the action, teams work well. That’s teamwork. But that’s not collaboration. The key for a successful team lies in its leader. You can have an ineffective, argumentative team but as long as strong leadership is provided to resolve disputes and help the team communicate and coordinate their activities, odds are the team will be successful. We have all been in these situations before where engaging in effective teamwork really hinges on the effectiveness of the leader. There is a certain framework backed by standards and expectations that we engage in, when we work on teams. Accountability on a team is usually, in theory at least, clear. So are the lines of communication and how delegated tasks are advanced. Control is key with teamwork.

Collaboration

Collaboration on the other hand is completely different. Collaborators usually have some shared goals that are only a smaller part of their overall responsibilities. Unlike teams, collaborators cannot rely on a leader to resolve differences, and cannot walk away from each other when they do disagree. In collaboration, the hierarchy experienced on teams is muted so accountability, communication, and how tasks are advanced all look different. Successful collaboration is reliant on the relationships of give and take between its participants. The end product comes from the effort of the group thinking and working together as equal partners; without a leader. Where collaboration breaks down is when there is a lack of trust, an inability to have healthy conflict and no framework established for accountability (mutual trust and agreement).

 So Teamwork or Collaboration? Which Should I use?

Both models are important and useful. It’s important to know how to be a team player but also to know how to be an effective collaborator. Knowing when to push and pull in each scenario is often a matter of emotional intelligence. With collaboration, you have to learn to share power and expect that your idea is not always the best idea.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I want participants to work as a team or as collaborators? Do I run this project as a collaboration or as a team? Which model will work best for this specific project? How do I prepare my personnel to excel as collaborators? How do I encourage team leaders?

Establishing teams uses up lots of internal resources. Collaboration is best when a project is greater than any one individual’s expertise and you don’t want to pull dedicated resources to ensure completion. Collaboration expands the team’s expertise.

Collaboration should not be thought of as a permanent solution. Collaborative groups should form, complete a project and disband. While collaborative engagements usually take longer, they should not be allowed to go ad infinitum. A team often stays together. When deciding whether a collaborative relationship is really necessary, assess if the conditions for success exist. Do people know how to work in a leader-less environment? Are they equipped to handle conflict? How will they communicate? How will they keep each other accountable?

A Final Word

So, collaboration and teamwork, no matter how similar they may seem are actually different. Both enable employees to work together efficiently to complete tasks and reach targets quicker. Both play an important role in the world of business. Choosing which to use, is an important decision with regards to resources as well as the capacity of personnel involved.

Creating an environment that encourages everyone to work together can have a big impact on your team’s performance.  Finding the correct balance between autonomous working, teamwork and collaboration will help to play to each person’s individual strengths to keep the workforce engaged and efficient.

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.

Blame: The Toxic Team Killer on the Loose

January 15, 2019 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Average people place blame, exceptional people take responsibility.”

-Craig Valentine

Toxic work environments, that is to say, those that feature narcissistic leadership, poor communication, high turnover, absenteeism, lack of trust, lack of accountability and a lack of employee engagement, are the most rife for blame-ridden interactions.

You know that blame has infiltrated your team (or worse your psyche) when there is a general lack of accountability, avoidance of responsibility, lack of commitment to excellence, and an environment where everyone seems to be out for themselves. When something goes wrong, the first question often posed is: “Whose fault is it?”

Blame is the killer of innovation and creativity. It is a death sentence for a culture of learning and unless it is addressed at its roots, it becomes a pathogen that erodes motivation, collaboration, engagement and productivity.

Blame, in short, costs money.

It has been empirically proven that positive work environments, absent of blame, increase productivity. In contrast, when people work in an atmosphere of blame, they expend their productive energy on covering up their errors, avoiding accountability and hiding their real concerns. A lack of accountability can be deadly to team accountability and to our personal efforts to fulfill our potential.

Accountability emphasizes keeping agreements and commitments in an environment of mutual respect. Blaming, in contrast, is an emotional process that discredits and shuts down the blamed. Where accountability leads to inquiry, learning and improvement; blame short circuits learning, makes inquiry difficult and reduces the chances of getting to the real root of a problem.

The qualities of blame are judgment, anger, fear, punishment, and self-righteousness. The qualities of accountability, on the other hand, are respect, trust, inquiry, moderation, curiosity, and mutuality.

Why do people blame?

Since the dawn of civilization we’ve assigned unseen causes to effects that we can’t explain.

When we are threatened, we often have what is known as the Fight or Flight response. Our bodies are very adept at letting us know there’s a “danger” that needs to be addressed, so we need to pay attention. This primes our system to move our attention outside. There is a certain sense to this. After all, we might not escape danger if we can’t take our focus off our internal world of thoughts, feeling and sensations.  When fight or flight dynamics enter the realm of interpersonal relationships it looks like blame.

Blame provides some immediate relief and a sense of having solved a problem. Blame is like a sugar high – it produces a brief spike in satisfaction and then a crash. It doesn’t serve the system’s long-term needs and can actually prevent it from functioning effectively. Like sugar, blame can also be addictive, because it makes us feel powerful (having avoided the danger) and keeps us from having to examine our own role in a situation. Blame has its foundations in fear and insecurity and works cyclically by causing more fear and insecurity.

How to shift from blame to accountability:

There are a few principles to remember before your knee-jerk reaction of fault-finding and assigning blame:

  • Shift from blame to accountability:

Developing a strong culture of transparency and accountability will focus your team’s efforts where they belong: on taking individual responsibility for their actions.

  • Become self aware:

Your current attitude, expectations, and beliefs have a powerful effect on thought, emotion, and ultimately behavior.

  • Don’t assume the worst:

Everyone is always doing as well as they can within their personal limitations, their personal history, what they know and don’t know and what they’re feeling in that moment.

  • Failure is not the enemy:

Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes these mistakes are harmful to the team’s efforts. Every mistake contains a lesson.

  • Proactive communication is key:

Accountability comes from clear expectations, follow-through on commitments, and ongoing conversations, to review both explicit and tacit agreements in order to verify shared understanding.

  • Look at the part you played:

Even if, in your mind, you are 99% right and your partner is 99% wrong, it’s your job to look at the 1% you did that was harmful or unhealthy.

 The Coach Approach

If you find yourself confounded by the blame game, before you take out the blame thrower, take the coach approach. Bring your complaints about someone else to a third person to get coaching on how to raise your concerns.

Valuable questions from the coach include:

  • Tell me about the situation.
  • What results do you want?
  • What’s another way of explaining the other person’s actions?
  • How might the other person describe the situation?
  • What was your role in creating the situation?
  • What requests or complaints do you need to bring to the other person?
  • How will you state them in order to get the results you want?
  • What do you think your learning is in this situation?

 A final word…

Finally, when we give responsibility for our feelings and actions away to others, we are left progressively more weak and powerless people. When we stop blaming others we begin to take responsibility for our emotional states. It’s then that we really begin to have choices. When we continue to be habitually sucked into the blame game, we drive erode our relationships. Developing accountability takes courage and the willingness to learn new ways of thinking and acting.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What is Leadership Presence and How Can You Develop It?

March 14, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Presence is more than just being there.” ~ Malclom S. Forbes

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of requests in my executive coaching practice for the development of what is called leadership or executive presence (EP).

It’s a hot topic. But what exactly is it and why does it matter?

Many of the articles that cover it define leadership presence as the ability to communicate and resonate effectively with your audience. These articles talk about the importance of having gravitas and charisma and espouse the virtues of being an extrovert. They talk about using body language, projecting your voice and using appearance to convey power.

To be sure, the ability to connect and engage with others in a way that is positive, impressive and inspiring is important. The ability to make a strong first and last impression has great value. But that’s only half the story. It’s only as they say, the tip of the iceberg. Actors also search for a strong “stage presence.” But rather than just a practice of technique, the best actors tap into their inner core to communicate their message to the outer world.

What preoccupies me is what’s below the water line, that is to say, the depth of character that gives rise to leadership presence. That is because for me, leadership presence has more to do with substance than with form. Leadership presence is about being comfortable in your own skin. It is a deeper archeology of who you are and how you show up in the world every day. It is from these depths that leadership presence emanates.

To demonstrate, let’s excavate.

Leaders are made, not born. First, is there such a thing as a natural born leader? That’s a complicated question and we can debate it for days. While there are certain personality traits and temperaments that are more suitable to leadership, the truth is that leadership can be developed, taught and learned. At the same time, leadership cannot be reduced to a set of strategies and tactics that automatically make you a leader when you practice them. For example, giving inspiring speeches is one of the qualities many great leaders exhibit. But if they don’t live the convictions they espouse, their rousing locutions are little more than empty rhetoric no matter how well delivered or how well constructed their sentence structures may be.

Leadership presence is about character. Character is such a central, important element of leadership that it should not and cannot be ignored in any discussion of leadership because character fundamentally shapes how we engage the world around us. If as a leader, people perceive your character as having serious defects, no amount of gravitas will save you. A key function in leadership is to engender trust in people. To do so, you must possess the character, competencies, and commitment to be a leader. Leadership presence is about exhibiting the values and virtues that embody leadership and the judgment to know when those virtues become vices in their excess or deficiency.

Leadership presence is about emotional intelligence. Self awareness, self regulation, social awareness, and relationship management are the hallmarks of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the engine that drives leadership presence. Like many things in life, the building block for leadership and leadership presence starts with self-awareness. Self awareness is the foundation of personal as well as professional growth. It starts with an acute awareness of your strengths and your vulnerabilities, but it is also a deeper awareness of your saboteurs, fears, and motivations. It is an awareness of how you see yourself and how others see you and an awareness of what drives you and what inhibits you. This awareness is crucial in the cultivation of leadership presence.

Leadership presence stems from your core. The source of leadership presence is rooted in your values, your purpose, your principles and your convictions. It is not a strategy. It is not a tactic. It is not swagger. It is not a front. It is an indelible impression made on you by your life experiences that you turn outward to the world. If you have lived an examined life, your ability to tap into this aspect of who you are and why you exist will be much easier. There is a correlation between how much you have excavated your own inner psyche and how confident you may be in your own skin as a leader.  Leadership presence is the ability to deploy who you are at your core against your leadership objectives.

Leadership presence is about congruence. Finally, leadership presence is what you believe and how you live what you believe every day. It is the authentic integration of what you believe with what you say and do. What comes out of your mouth should not be different than the actions you take or the behaviors you manifest. It is the alignment of your actions and words and the congruence between what you believe and how you act in the world that demonstrates who you are and your leadership character. Therein is the integrity that all great leaders demonstrate. If you are a lone wolf who demands collaboration, you are incongruent as a leader. If you are incongruent as a leader, those you hope will follow your message will see through this incongruence and will be unsettled by it. Ultimately, they will not follow.

A final word

While some might argue that presence is an innate quality, you can demystify the building blocks of presence and train yourself to strengthen our own engagement with audiences. Think for a moment about a person whom you consider to have remarkable leadership presence – someone you admire and respect. What qualities do they possess? What behaviors do they engage in? Were they born that way or did they learn along the way? We know when someone has it – and, on the flipside, we know when it’s missing. Leadership presence is not about power posing. Leadership presence is about self awareness first and foremost. This is followed by situational awareness and the emotional intelligence needed to cater your response to the person or circumstance at hand. If you start from the inside and work your way out, not only will you tap into your inner leader, but you will do so in a way that is authentic and lasting. Anything else, is an exercise in superficiality.

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.

6 Essential Things All Great Managers Do

March 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Managers get a bad rap the world over. Meddling managers are seen as a distraction to real work rather than as facilitators of strategy, collaboration and career growth. The truth is that bad managers are actually a liability and good ones a commodity.

If you are a manager and if your job involves leading others, the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work in a positive work environment. It is not rocket science. People perform better when their workday experiences include more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for the work), and more favorable perceptions of their work, their team, their leaders, and their organization. While I usually make a distinction between the two, for the purposes of this post I’ll be using manager and leader interchangeably. Let’s take a look.

1.      Great Managers are Great Coaches who engage in regular coaching conversations with their team members helping them articulate their goals and challenges through powerful open ended questions that help individuals tap into their own inner creativity and resources. They co-create and sustain a developmental alliance that supports them in taking ownership over their own learning, and helps them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.

2.      Great Managers are Great Connectors who understand the importance of relationships, motivation, and meaning. They know what drives each person and gives their inner work life purpose. They help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, and they provide timely feedback when there is misalignment between the individual and the organization in order to help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. They are also focused on growing their internal and external networks because they recognize that these connections are a source of opportunities they can leverage on behalf of their teams and organizations.

3.      Great Managers are Great Talent Agents who select top performers and focus on their strengths. The craziest thing I see organizations do is hire people and then put them in roles that expose their weaknesses rather than exploit their strengths.  Once exposed, they create performance goals around these weaknesses with elaborate schemes to ‘improve’ them that just turn a potentially star performer into Sisyphus. Great managers help people find systems, both personal and organizational, that help them deploy and maximize their strengths.

4.      Great Managers are Great Communicators which is not to say they talk all the time. Yes they are clear when they communicate and can motivate and inspire others through their speech. But just as importantly, they have well honed listening behaviors. They know that listening to and respecting others helps shape organizational culture, builds working relationships and creates the opportunity for impact. They get that work is all about relationships and that listening is a vital component of creating and maintaining relationships.

5.      Great Managers are Great Delegators who ensure even allocation of work and understand that employees are more effective performers when they feel challenged and stretched by assignments that help them grow. Great managers do not micromanage but make sure that the staff person understands exactly what is expected of them and what success looks like. Once they have communicated clearly about progress milestones and deadlines, they step back and give employees the freedom to do their job how they think it is best done, so long as the desired result is reached.

6.      Great Managers are Great Role Models who earn the respect of others because they lead by example and act as servant leaders. If they demand that their employees work more, it is because they work more. If they demand punctuality, it is because they are punctual. If they require stronger commitment, it is because they are fully committed. They cultivate a culture of trust based on their integrity infused behavior and they strive to develop other leaders rather than hog the glory. In short, they walk the talk of great leadership.

A Final word…

Leadership and management are not simple. If they were, great leaders and managers would not be so highly valued and such a rare commodity. The 6 traits highlighted above are by no means exhaustive. Great managers must excel at seeing the big picture, create loyalty, exercise emotional intelligence, create engagement and do much, much more. There are many personal qualities a great leader must develop over the course of their life and career. But these 6 traits are essential. I have never seen a manager succeed at being a great leader without them.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it 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?

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

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

3 Powerful Ways to Foster A Positive Work Environment

March 2, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expect it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” John Maxwell.

I want to start this article with a little story about my son. He was 10 years old when we were having a conversation that just blew me away. For some reason that I can’t recall now, he all of a sudden piped up with this statement: “Well, everything is about atmosphere anyway.” The statement was so all encompassing and filled with surety I had to explore further. “What do you mean,” I asked. “Think about it,” he said, “atmosphere is the most important thing at home and at work.” He went on to explain how parents determine the atmosphere of the home and how leaders determine the atmosphere of a work environment. He essentially argued that the atmosphere we create has the biggest impact on happiness and productivity.

I couldn’t agree more.

The culture within an organization plays a large role in whether the company is providing a happy and healthy environment in which to work. When the interaction between leaders and their people is constructive, employees will make a greater contribution to team communication and collaboration, and will also be encouraged to accomplish the mission and objectives assigned by the organization. The level of work satisfaction with their jobs and the level of team satisfaction can have a powerful impact on individual performance.

The culture is, ultimately, a reflection of the values of those leading the organization. If your values as a leader are to be inclusive and give everyone a voice, this will be reflected in the way you manage meetings. If you value work-life balance, your employees are likely benefiting from this through specific programs you have implemented. The core values of an organization begin with its leadership, which will then evolve to a leadership style. When leadership is able to consistently communicate and promote the organizational ethos, values, and priorities to employees, their acknowledgement and acceptance of it can influence their work behavior and attitudes.

1.      Demonstrate Empathy – defined as the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others, empathy is more than mere sympathy. It is a key part of social and emotional intelligence and critical to being an effective leader. Transformational leaders show their teams that they care about their needs and achievements. Giving time and attention to others fosters empathy. So do active listening skills. Good listeners foster trust which in turn fosters greater engagement. Leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, and other professional development opportunities.

2.      Show Gratitude – Show appreciation for your team members as a routine part of your day-to-day interactions. Act on the belief that employees will do their best if their contributions to the team are recognized. Praise publicly and criticize privately. Criticizing employees publicly can create a sense of embarrassment among all who are present and diminish their respect for you as a leader.

3.      Reinforce Purpose – Today’s employees, especially Millennials, want more from their jobs than just a paycheck. Research shows that employees with a strong sense of purpose are at least four times more likely to be engaged in their jobs as other employees. They are also healthier, happier and more productive. Explain to employees exactly where they fit into the company structure and how they contribute to the success of the business. Institutionalize purpose driven conversations.

The research is clear. Employees and employers mutually benefit from a positive, engaged and purpose-driven work place. While there isn’t a magic bullet, it is possible to create a workplace atmosphere that better serves people, and ultimately impacts communities and society. You can start to move the needle with these few simple steps. Yes, it’s clearly good for the bottom line but more importantly, it’s good for your overall health and well being too. Think about it. Everything is about atmosphere.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it 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?

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

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