Lessons In Coaching From 3 Common Mistakes Made When Dancing Tango
The intention of this post is to invite you to consider the synchronous nature of your coaching through the use of a dance metaphor.
The Tango is a dance influenced by African, South American, and European cultures and is characterized as being based on a syncopated rhythm that allows for much improvisation and full expression. To watch a couple, dance the Tango in a synchronous way can be an immersive experience; watching the dancers float across the floor effortlessly, perfectly synchronized, connected, and fully expressing. They share equal power in the movements even though one partner is leading. It can be so moving when the dancers are in sync. When the dancers are out of sync or “off” in their partnering of the dance, the experience for the observer can be choppy, disconnecting, and in some way uninspiring.
“I feel as though I have been tokenized…”
“There are so many times when I am the only one like me at a meeting…”
“It is exhausting … not being able to bring my whole self to work…”
(actual client statements)
As we enter into 2022, we are amid a social revolution caused by politics, protests, and a pandemic. The great resignation is driving career contemplation more than ever with more than 4.5 million quits in November 2021 alone, the highest recorded for one month since the US government began tracking the statistic back in 2000.
For these reasons, coaches are needed. What we say and do, continues to shape who we are and reminds us of the impact we have on others. Coaches, and managers as coaches, need to heighten their awareness of the changing needs of their clients and embrace the growing complexity of the world around us.
Welcome to 2022.
If lockdown, vaccinations, social distancing, and COVID-19 were no longer terms you use in 2022; What would you be talking about? What would you be thinking about?
2022 and your coach are inviting you to start exploring these two questions.
At first, resist looking for definitive answers, rather, see the trends or directions of your answers. Observe the themes of your thoughts and feelings. Is there a repetitive pattern? Are you starting to hear your dreams, hopes, and desires creep back in? Are you being drawn towards more responsibility, new or deeper relationships, balance, or love?
The secret to 2022, a six-year, is to Accept what is and build on it.
With the holiday season upon us, it is time to give pause and reflect, what’s in a name? Answer: Everything.
Last week, I watched a commercial for a very large box retailer gladly tout, “Happy All-The-Days!” (pronounce it like Mary Poppins’ friend Bert might, with a terrible Cockney accent). Today in the grocery store, someone said, “Happy Day of Thanks”. Did they mean Thanksgiving?
My niece is a teacher in a local elementary school where they have removed specific holidays entirely from being discussed and celebrated. They removed Halloween and Thanksgiving in favor of “Fall Festivities”. They also removed Christmas (December 25), Chanukah (begins November 28), Diwali (November 4), and Kwanzaa (begins December 26) in favor of “Winter Holidays”.
Has there been a rash of recent holiday name changes that I am unaware of?
In a world interrupted by Covid, leaders are faced with even greater and far more pervasive challenges than the “pre-covid” era presented. Now more than ever, leaders need an approach that will help them, their teams, and ultimately their organizations thrive during these turbulent times rather than simply survive them.
Prior to Covid, leaders were already confronted with:
Rapidly evolving and constantly changing technology
A larger global “playing field” resulting in greater competition
24/7 connectivity and heightened expectations related to performance and response times
Multiple “generations” from diverse backgrounds all working together
Shockingly high levels of disengaged employees (the most recent “State of the Global Workplace” report published by Gallup reflects that globally, 80% of employees are actively disengaged at work. Per Gallup this lack of engagement costs the global economy US$8.1 trillion)
These challenges require leaders to interact with their teams in a way that fosters employee engagement, tolerance, agility, innovation, and increased resilience.
In today’s global environment, where technology is making the world smaller and diversity remains one of the most important topics, coaches can no longer remain ignorant of the impact these two tsunamis have on their coach approach and on their clients. As coaches, we need to lift up our heads, so we can lift up others.
The current climate is looking for innovative ways of approaching diversity and cultural differences within coaching. Diversity in coaching is about understanding the mindset of your client within their larger context – be it culture, religious belief, gender, race, or economic realities. As described by the International Coaching Federation, “this includes a paramount emphasis on … the critical distinctions between various levels of coaching agreements, the criticality of a partnership between coach and client, and the importance of cultural, systemic and contextual awareness.”
Recently, I was talking with a new coaching client. It was a usual intake meeting where we were getting to know each other and exploring ways in which coaching may enhance their life. We were about 40 minutes into the conversation when I realized the new client had not used any traditional pronouns while speaking about themselves or others.
A moment of decision; a time when a coach needs to determine the next step or the next question. What do you do in that moment? Wait for the next session and determine the right approach? Or, remain curious and courageous and ask a difficult and direct question in that moment?
With 2020 behind us, social protests and politics remain with us as we continue to struggle living through a pandemic. What we say and do, continues to define us and our legacy as coaches and continues to shape the impact we have on others. Therein lies both the challenge and the opportunity.
Coaches must re-address their coach approach through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in every coaching exchange - adapting and evolving their mindset and presence to their client’s needs. Coaches need to embody the ICF competencies with a laser focus on building DEIB awareness, knowledge, and discipline to be an effective and empathetic coach.
I played the oboe for years. Beginning in primary school and through college, I practiced and practiced, joining the band, the wind ensemble, a church group and even formed a professional trio with a flute and clarinet. Now you may wonder why I open a piece on Coaching with my musical skills? Simple. When I was seeking out a music coach, I searched for someone who understood me – and who understood the oboe – and the distinctive value of the double-reed instrument. Not someone who played drums, not a tuba teacher, but a skilled musician that believed in the beauty and joy of the unusual oboe and related to the unique needs and challenges of the oboist.
It is the same with any coaching, whether it be leadership coaching, career coaching, or life coaching. A client brings their unique perspectives – their differences – to every coaching session. Hence, a coach must see their client, hear their client, and truly understand their client, all while respecting their own perspectives and honoring the coaching process. This is embracing diversity in coaching.
Why is diversity important in coaching? To be an effective and present coach, we must seek to understand the client within their context. A client’s context that may include their identity, environment, experiences, values, culture, and beliefs.
The amount and speed with which we receive information has almost become overwhelming.
Add that with the increased pressure to take action more quickly, and the continued stretch of leading (and living) through a pandemic, leaders find themselves with less and less time to think through a problem.
Without this space, I am seeing an increased number of the those I work with are making more reactionary, sometimes short sighted decisions.
The Ladder of Inference is a powerful tool to help leaders identify their thinking process in order to challenge the premise of decisions, thereby increasing the probability of a solid decision. The Ladder of Inference was created by organizational psychologist Chris Argyris in the mid-1970s and became well known when it appeared in Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.
The Ladder identifies 7 steps, or rungs we climb to make decisions.
Almost ten years ago, I decided that I wanted to become a professional coach. Working in leadership and human resource roles for some of Canada’s largest employers in the financial services sector gave me many opportunities to coach people. I learned that I loved being a coach — aka a strategic thinking partner and an impartial, confidential, accountability advocate.
Want to be a coach?
While still working full-time for my employer and with their consent, I attended coach training (on my own time and dime). Back then, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) was not as well known as the global leader and gold standard for professional coaches. I received my first coaching certification from an organization whose training was not recognized by the ICF.
So I started again and took more coach training. This time, I found a training program that would check all the important boxes in order to meet my coaching goals.
As of the date of this post, I am awaiting a decision from the ICF regarding my application to be recognized as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC).
If you are looking to become a professional coach certified with the ICF, I invite you to continue reading.
Over the years, I have learned a great deal about coach training, mentor coaching, and the ICF.
Welcome to 2021!
Well, wasn’t that an interesting year?
It stretched you, might have frustrated you and it may have revealed more of you.
In the face of an unexpected life twists, three groups of people show up: Innovators, Managers and Resistors
Each group plays an important part. You will have experienced each of these roles this year. Some for short periods of time and some for long periods with a lot of slipping back and forth between them.
Let’s bring your focus to the three roles we all can experience in this coming year.
There will be Pacesetters, Leaders, and Influencers.
The innovators can shift to be the Pacesetters
The Managers can shift to be the Leaders
The Resistors can shift to be Influencers
The following are questions you should ask any coaching company you are considering partnering with for your Coach Training to become an ICF Credentialed Coach...
What are the credentials of the coach facilitators who are delivering the program?
Ask for the experience and confirm the credentials of the coach facilitators who will be taking part in your training. Invest some time to speak to the people behind the program you are considering.
Is the program schedule convenient? Does it offer flexibility?
Can you do the program from home or on a laptop from anywhere or do you need to be physically present at a facility? What happens if you can’t make a session? Can you make it up or is there a replay?
Does the program have a good reputation?
Do they have an abundance of testimonials? Ask them if it’s possible to speak with one of their graduates? Are their trainers ICF credentialed? Search the internet to see what people are saying about them online.
This list of 10+1 important considerations when Coaching Through Crisis is presented as a mindful guide you can put in practice today.
Reset your coaching agreement. Align to the new conditions.
In the coaching relationship we have an agreement. We have an agreement in terms of what we're going to talk about. We have a formal agreements for payment. There's also a subtle coaching agreement, which simply says "what are we working on together? What's the focus of our conversation? What are the outcomes? How are we going to measure our success? Now is a really good time to realign those those coaching agreements by having a conversation with each one of your clients to align to a new set of conditions and continue to align as conditions change.
Shift their fear to facts – Ask: What do you know for sure?
It's real easy to focus on the fear because it's available - the shift we need is to move from fear to facts. A powerful question to ask is "What do we know for sure?" We know we have this fear somebody might get ill. What are we know for sure is they are not sick today. We know for sure if they're taking precautions today. We know for sure is that they're isolating and they're following the instructions that's what we know for sure. A grounding in reality of what you know. What's the truth of today? What's the what's the truth in the moment.
For example, on a virtual walk with a client, who was at about 10,000 feet in terms of stress and frustration and overwhelm and work -- for the forty minutes all the focus on that one question. "What do we know for sure?" The client started out unsure but you keep circling back to that question. By the time we were done with our virtual walk, they felt they knew where I'm going. They had very good clarity. Fear facts replace fear very very substantially.
Fully listen for the context. Listen for what is missing.
One of the core skills of any coach any manager and hopefully any parent is the ability to listen. In coaching we call it listening for context. The adage that only 7% of what we say in words is what's communicated and the rest, the other 93%, is nonverbal and tone. It's really important to listen to the context of the conversations that are happening, particularly in this kind of crisis situation. You listen for what is missing. If they normally talk about their work, kids, or goals and aspirations and today they're not. That is a powerful observation that you can make and bring to their attention. Really fully listening to the context of what's happening of their mood.
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