Running as fast as I can…but getting nowhere.

In today’s busy world we are often pressured to do more with less. There is a way to increase capacity, but it’s not by putting your nose to the grindstone…find out how in this video.

The content from this video is taken from our Certified Capacity Growth Coach program. Our next cohort starts THIS WEDNESDAY, September 25th.
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In today’s work world, we’re so often expected to do more with less. We get the news that there will be a reduction in workforce, and poof… your team starts to disappear.

We’re already running at break-neck pace, and so, responsible human beings that we are, we run faster. But it can feel like we’re dragging a huge weight behind us.

And then with less people-power, we put in more hours … and yet we don’t feel like there’s enough time in the day to do all the things that need to be done.

And so, dedicated human beings that we are, we run faster.

And then we learn that the budget has been cut … we have to deliver the same or even bigger results with fewer resources.

And so, caring human beings that we are, we run faster.

Faster and faster, harder and harder, longer and longer … to get it all done.

But there’s a better formula for increasing capacity: one that doesn’t involve force, and one that doesn’t involve exhaustion.

It’s the Connect-and-Create process.

First, connect with yourself. Deepen your breathing, calm your mind, be uber-compassionate with yourself. This can help shift your brain state from beta to alpha waves, from Narrow Focus to Open-Focus.

Next, connect with others. Science tells us the social-bonding hormone of oxytocin helps both build trust AND helps us think better.

And, the research on collective intelligence tells us that when people come together and collaborate, they have a higher IQ than just the average of the IQs in the room. Literally, two or more heads are better than one.

So with this formula of Connect-and-Create, you have brighter ideas for working smarter, AND happier, not just harder. 

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Name the Elephant in the Room

The old saying “elephant in the room” implies that there is an issue that is so big, or complex, or unmanageable, or unsolvable that it’s simply easier to pretend it doesn’t exist. In other words, ignore it, and it will go away!

When coaching leaders, the elephant that feels unsolvable might be…

  • A colleague who has the ear and favoritism of the boss, thus causing your client to feel powerless.
  • Or maybe it’s a budget constraint that feels untenable.
  • Or maybe it’s an old Achilles heel that the client thinks is impossible to overcome (e.g., a hot temper, an insecurity, micro-managing…you name it).

Why Do We Avoid the Elephant?

As coaches, we might avoid addressing the elephant because

  • We’re afraid of it ourselves, wondering if there really IS an answer to it?
  • We afraid of our client’s response to it—What if they feel offended… what if they get mad… what if, what if, what if?
  • We’re afraid our client isn’t ready or won’t be able to hear it.

What Happens if We Avoid the Elephant?

  • We appear tentative, timid, or just plain chicken!

  • We lose the client’s respect because they sense we’re not courageous enough to be direct.

  • The client doesn’t get the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to stretch, to grow, to experience a win.

How to Name the Elephant!

Here are two suggestions for naming and playing with the elephant in the room.

(Note: these ideas assume that other ICF coaching competencies are already in place, such as ICF #3 Establishing Trust & Intimacy, and ICF #5 Active Listening).

  • The Curious Observation: The technique of making an observation is a good starting point for elephants. For example, the coach might say, with warmth and humor: “So I guess the elephant in the room here is the impact of the boss’s favoritism toward ‘Joe,’ who seems to have advanced dexterity at pushing your buttons.”

  • The Curious Question: You could also ask the client their thoughts on the elephant. For example, “Feels like there’s an elephant in the room—something that appears too big to solve … how would you name it?”

Play with the Elephant!

Once the elephant is named, it can be reflected on. It’s important that the reflection be from a stance of curiosity, creativity, and optimism. There is always a solution. Always.

Remember that “what we focus on grows.” If our brains focus on curiosity, creativity, and optimism (as opposed to unsolvable, unmanageable, difficult), then we’re guaranteed to notice new ideas and strategies.

Name those elephants! They can carry us into new and adventurous territory!

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Are Your Coaching Questions Brain-Friendly or Brain-Frazzling?

Have you ever been asked a question you knew the answer to but froze?

That frozen reaction was likely caused because the question elicited the fight-flight-freeze response in you. Your brain heard the question, but your body interpreted it as some kind of threat.

Neuroscientists say that the subconscious can process over 40 million nerve impulses per second, whereas the conscious mind’s prefrontal cortex, only 40 nerve impulses per second.

Let’s say you’re coaching a leader who is trying to land the next promotion, and she gets a behavioral interviewing question during her formal interview—“Tell me about a time when you…dealt with conflict on your team.”

While her conscious brain is trying to think of the right story, her subconscious brain could be working overtime, remembering an embarrassing moment or the painful fall-out associated with the conflict.

Her inner critic can show up with its own story of “you should have handled that conflict better… you really blew that… if you tell the interviewer this story, you might look incompetent, and then you might not get this promotion, and then all your coworkers will know you didn’t make the cut, and then what about the raise you were hoping for… your son needs braces and you want to be able to enroll him in that summer program that will help prep him for his college entrance exams … gosh, do I have what it takes to manage this role … and and and…)

As coaches, when we recognize the body’s natural tendency to shift to fight-flight-freeze, we can adjust our questions to lessen this reaction.

Enter Curiosity vs. Quiz Questions.

We can’t prevent the people we speak with from going into the Red Zone of fight-flight. Some questions we ask will be uncomfortable—both for the client and for you. You may be hesitant to ask a question for fear of making the client scared or offended, or opening up a can of worms.

So when you’ve got a question to ask your client that might be perceived from a fight-flight state, here are two brain-friendly tips:

Bathe it in curious compassion

  • Remember your common humanity—the client is doing the best they can, just as you are.
  • Remove judgment or bias from your questions.
  • Wonder where/from whom the client first conditioned himself/herself to fear whatever it is that’s causing concern.
  • Appreciate the client—his/her essence, highest self, strengths, journey.

Consider “buffering” questions:

  • “This might be an uncomfortable question, so let’s get it out in a safe space to explore…”
  • “A question is coming up, and it’s being posed from the position of ‘on-your-side advocate’ …”
  • “Just between you, me and the fencepost, what’s the scariest question you could be asked right now?”
  • “This question is being addressed to your higher self—that part of you that easily sees the big-picture trajectory in all of this…”

Avoid Quiz Questions, and enjoy asking Curiosity Questions! Coach on!

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Which Brain Are You Listening With?

Our mood, our experiences, our levels of reasoning—all determine how we listen, and how well with listen.

We can playfully consider these brain modes that may be driving our listening:

  • The Buddy Brain – the Buddy Brain is concerned with making sure everyone is happy, that everyone is being nice to one another, and that everyone is getting along. Our allegiances and preferences for certain relationships can get in the way of listening. For example, hearing this statement from a client, “I got passed over for a promotion…again!” – the Buddy Brain may think to itself:

    “Oh, no! How dare they do that to you! … what a toxic environment you are working in … you oughta get out of there!” The Buddy Brain can get caught up with the details of he said-she said, and loses site of the bigger picture.

  • The Bias Brain – the Bias Brain listens in a judgmental or evaluative state of mind. It is listening with the filter of what it thinks is right and what it thinks is wrong—the right way to do things, or not. For example, hearing this statement from a client, “I got passed over for a promotion…again!” – the Bias Brain may think to itself:

    “Of course you got passed over. You didn’t develop the leadership competencies the boss is looking for. You should have done more networking.”

  • The Builder Brain – the Builder Brain listens to understand within the bigger context, with an eye that everything that is happening to the client is creating opportunities to learn, grow, evolve. From this Brain, the statement “I got passed over for a promotion…again!” – the Builder Brain may think:

    “I hear the emotion there … and the emphasis you placed on the word ‘again,’ as if you’ve tried everything you could think of and it still hasn’t worked.”

    After a statement like this, pause, listen for client’s response, respond, and then possibly offer this response, with compassion. “What are the leadership competencies the organization needs to see in its promotable people right now? … And what are the opportunities for demonstrating them?”

To operate from the Builder Brain, we need to curiously and compassionately see circumstances as opportunities and recognize our power to choose the powerful strengths/values/perspectives that will move us and our clients toward what they want to create.

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