I'm always looking for new ideas that'll upgrade, broaden, or deepen my coaching, so it's more effective. You too? Then you'll love this post.
It's a challenge to keep readers like you, well...challenged. You're a pretty sophisticated bunch.
But here goes: some of the best ideas I've encountered, which ultimately changed my life and the way I coach and may change your life and coaching too.
1. The Power of Negativity. This first one is possibly the most powerful idea to come out of positive psychology. It's the concept of the Positivity Ratio and the upper limit of positivity, which can be measured as both positive thoughts and feelings, as well as whether you're curious or defending your point of view, and/or focused on yourself or on those around you. To flourish, you, your relationship, your business, or your coaching, needs at least a three-to-one ratio of positivity to negativity. AND there's an upward limit around eleven-to-one, beyond which things go down fast. So, if you're a Law of Attraction Nazi, or if you focus only on the good stuff in coaching, stepping over the problematic stuff, or if you relentlessly reframe problems into opportunities, or (as one of my clients famously put it) FLO's (F*cking Learning Opportunities), you may hinder, rather than help your clients. (Read Barbara Fredrickson's Positivity.)
2. The Tyranny of Mild Praise. This one also comes from positive psychology and it's about relationships. Let's face it, the relationship between coach and client does much of the coaching for us. Therefore, the concept called, Active Constructive Responding (ACR), is critical. What is ACR? It's an over-the-top form of acknowledgment that includes positive tone of voice (genuine excitement, awe, wonder), positive body language (smiling, eye contact, touching), repeating the specifics of what the other has said, commenting on it's importance to the other, suggesting a celebration; all of which leads to flourishing within the relationship. NONE of the other types of responses, including Passive Constructive Responding (Flat tone of voice, general praise, "That's nice."), Passive Destructive Responding (ignoring, changing the subject, turning away), or Active Negative Responding (showing concern, pointing out problems); I repeat, none of these promote relationships. In fact they ALL have a negative impact on relationships, which obviously can negatively impact coaching. I've listened to thousands of coaching sessions over the years. Even "good" coaches tend to rely heavily on Passive Constructive Response, or a hybrid of ACR and PCR, which clearly limits the value of their coaching. ACR can be a challenge to weave into coaching and for some of us, it's a challenge to make it truly genuine, but master coaches do it all the time. For others, over-using ACR (see above) damages our credibility. This is a tool that we can't afford not to master. (Read Martin Seligman's Flourish.)
3. Change Your Brain to Change Your Mind.
This one comes from neuroscience and it has profound implications for positive psychology coaches
, as well as every other type of coach. As members of my positive psychology course
know, the Positivity Ratio can be used to measure and increase your current potential for flourishing and it'sa nifty coaching tool. There are also tools, founded in modern neuroscience, that can change the brain to sustainably increase peace, happiness, love and other elements of positivity. Literally, you can grow some areas of your brain so that they become more dominant, relatively permanently. And over-developed areas that may be problematic (such as the over-sized amygdala of those who suffer from anxiety) can shrink, again causing sustainable change. Change your brain; change your life for good. I just took a neuroscience seminar on this, but you can read more about it. (Read Rick Hanson's Buddha's Brain
4. Coaching's Not Complete If It's Not Integral. I'm taking a course from Integral Philospher, Ken Wilber. Some people say he's the most important philosopher since Plato, but that statement begs an argument, so I won't say it. Suffice it to say, if you don't know his work, your evolution may be stymied. And that of your clients, as well. As coaches, we say our clients are whole, complete and perfect. Trouble is, we may be blind to some of that perfection. And our clients almost certainly are. Blind spots make trouble (see #5, below). Wilber's Integral Model, known as AQAL, is an elegant map that streamlines how we know anything and how we evolve. It's closely aligned with Spiral Dynamics, which I'll be teaching next month. But AQAL goes even further. The AQAL Map is a beautiful tool to use when helping our clients design accountability structures, supportive systems, environments and strategic habitats (or whatever you prefer to call them). With AQAL, we can easily see if we're leaving anything out, or if the client is blind to some aspects of reality (almost everybody is). Plus, we have an evolutionary framework. It makes the complex simple, when you understand it. I'll be teaching an introductory course on integral coaching soon, but start reading books on Integral Theory now. (Read Wilber's simplest book, Integral Vision.)
5. All Coaching is Shadow Coaching - Or Should Be. My first lesson from Zen Master, Genpo Roshi, included a joke - on us. To paraphrase, he said (with a laugh), evolved people like to say they're whole, complete and perfect, except the parts they don't like about themselves. But you can't be complete without all of it! So what parts of yourself don't you like? The part that overeats? The part that's naive? The part that gets tongue-tied at parties? It's not those parts that keep you fragmented, it's the fact that you try to disown them. Then they become blind spots, which grow into shadows, which undermine and sabotage you. That's what fragmentation really is. For many people, the first step toward wholeness is integration of the parts they formerly disliked. That's the underlying cause of stuckness and it keeps coming back until all aspects of the self are integrated (or Integral). Some people are so fragmented that they lose the ability to choose wholeness. That's what is known as mental illness and I'm not suggesting that shadow coaching can cure that. But even healthy people have shadows and we can choose to integrate them with assistance from a skilled coach. I use this approach in my Great Self Coaching. Genpo Roshi is incredibly masterful at it from a Zen perspective. (Read Genpo Roshi's Big Mind/Big Heart.)
6. Your Business Model May Be Too Infantile to Last. I've also been studying Adizes Management Methodology of late. Ichak Adizes is a legendary management consultant who deftly identified several different stages of a business life cycle. His theory explains, among other things, why the US Government is floundering these days (no, it has nothing to do with Republicans vs. Democrats). One thing that strikes me about it is that most coaches base their businesses on one of three early-stage levels and expect their businesses to continue at that stage forever. It won't happen. I'm happy to say, I saw this even before I studied Adizes and I'm ready for it. I'll write more at length on how you can design your business to last in a future post. But this issue could explain why our industry is so successful, but some coaches never enjoy that success. (Read Ichak Adizes' Corporate life cycles)
We all have access to too much information these days. But there really is no substitution for knowing the right stuff.
As a coach, you probably believe in powerful questions. And as TEDEd speaker, Michael Stevens, demonstrates, powerful questions make all the difference in teaching, too. In fact, questions such as, "How much does a video weigh?" and "What color is a mirror?" have made his Vsauce channel popular with millions. They foster curiosity, because most folks have never considered these quirky questions before.
Is there such a thing as unanswerable questions? Stevens can answer the above questions with science. But coaches are simply looking for clarity, inspiration and action, rather than actual answers. Or are we?
Sometimes an unanswerable question expands awareness. When tapping into a client's Higher Self, for instance, I'll ask, "What color is it?" and "Where is it located?", questions that don't make logical sense, because the Higher Self isn't a physcial thing. But my clients step into the present moment, along with their intuition, as they attempt to answer my questions and that's the whole point.
My favorite quirky question is "Is the truth really a question?" Coaches intuitively feel the answer is, "Yes." But it can't be, because "Yes." isn't a question. So the logical answer is, "No." But this question invites us to step out of linear logic into a broader, deeper way of thinking.
So then what's the answer? My favorite answer is the coach-y, "What do you think?" Which is all I care about. But the most concise answer is, "Yes?" Which embodies the perfect attitude to bring to a coaching session: open, positive, curious and affirmative.
Watch Michael Stevens for more on quirky questions:
Positive psychology turns the traditional psychology of illness on its head by redefining mental health.
Instead of cataloging symptoms of mental illness (which apparently we all have), health is instead defined as: flourishing despite the presence of some symptoms. Assets matter more than deficits, so the focus is off healing and onto increasing well-being. That makes positive psychology
an excellent fit for coaching.
For instance, strengths-based psychology
is a subset of positive psychology and is used by many coaches to help their clients succeed and enjoy life more. The client takes an assessment to identify core strengths and then works with a coach to cross-train their strengths and master them. It's simple, straight forward and can work brilliantly.
But do weaknesses never matter? Is strengthening your strengths really all you need? And is it possible for a strength to also be a weakness and visa versa?
Here's an example: I have a relative who is highly productive, organized and fast. I have another relative, who is a mental-health professional, who says this is obsessive compulsive behavior. Really? She is flourishing, so I'd say what she has is showing up as a strength, not a weakness. According to the Clifton Strengths Finder, she's a strong Activator, someone who, once she's decided what to do, gets it done fast. According to Clifton, I'm a strong Strategizer and should work with Activators. When I collaborate with my Activator relative, I suggest things we should consider and we decide what to do about them. Then, while I'm thinking about adding them to my to-do list, she gets them done. For me, this is a little like having a magic genie.
I haven't done exhaustive research on strengths vs. weaknesses, but I've deep dived into it more than most coaches. Here's what I've observed:
- A strength can get you into trouble and still be a strength, but if it causes more trouble than it solves, it's mostly a weakness.
- If you have a rigid need to use a strength, even in inappropriate situations, it has become a weakness.
- If you can negotiate and modulate a strength as needed, it's not a weakness.
- As your life changes, you may develop new strengths you didn't know you had.
- If you over-rely on your strengths, you may never develop some and that could be a weakness.
- If you work alone and expect your strengths to pull you through every situation, you'll likely fail in areas where you're weak. Outsource to someone else's strengths.
- Your idea of strength may be someone else's idea of illness. Focus on flourishing and ignore the the judgers.
The key is who's in charge. Are you using your strength, or is it using you?
If you'd like to add positive psychology to your coaching, plus get a certificate and 8 ICF CCEs...
Oddly, when you market your coaching, you really don't want to attract everybody. You only want to attract those who are right for you and your business. Erika Napoletano at TEDxBoulder 2012, explains in hilarious fashion, with a few swear words. Love her or hate her, hear her message.
Bad things happen with no warning and they cause pain and suffering. We wish they wouldn't happen, but we're often powerless over them. We live with that.
But we do have power.
We have enormous power to prevent suffering, if not the actual pain.
So when the next Boston Marathon, Newtown CT, or Aurora CO happens, you have enormous power to both prevent and repair the damage done.
No, you can't bring back the dead, nor make broken bodies whole, but you can do three things that save humanity whenever bad things happen.
1. You can stop dwelling. Your brain's warning bell, the amygdala, will register the alarm. It's primitive and will tell you to hide under a rock. Your anterior cingulate cortex, much more sophisticated, is connected to the amygdala via a complex network of neurons. It reflects on the horror, but watch out. It loves to ruminate itself into what's known to neuroscientists as threat reactivity or the negativity bias. Become aware of it and you have new possibilities. Turn off your TV. Don't get caught up in Facebook conversations about how bad and helpless you feel. Don't obsess over who did it and why.
2. Do offer to help. Reach out to friends in the region. Give to the the Red Cross. Volunteer. You'll feel the love that makes you mighty. Your help and caring will heal others. Remember, you're not truly compassionate until you've acted on it.
3. Live your values. Don't get pulled into the anger, unless being a warrior (I call it my Inner Prosecutor) is truly your thing. This is an inside job only you can do, but allow a friend or coach to help you.
Humanity is wonderful. You are wonderful. Live that reality. That is your Greatness.
Image by soniasu_
A good life coach can be everybody else's best friend and their own worst enemy if they don't know how to say NO at the right times. Why? Because people will naturally want your help and will eventually, accidentally even, suck you dry. (Imagine what would happen to Sookie Stackhouse if she didn't take a "Back off!" attitude towards most vampires.)
A dried-up grape = a raisin. A dried-up coach = useless.
But saying NO requires discipline, because it feels good to help. And it feels really good to help for free. And it's real easy to get clients when you're doing a great job of helping everybody for free. But it's unprofessional.
Charity is a beautiful thing under the right circumstances. Coaching isn't one of them.
Charitable coaching is unprofessional, because when you coach clients for free, or for too little, it undermines their potential. People play small when they don't have enough skin in the game. That's just how we're wired.
It feels challenging - scary even - to ask people to pay for coaching. But get paid you must, unless you're independently wealthy. So that's another reason why coaching for free is unprofessional.
Here's a third reason why coaching for free is unprofessional. It allows YOU to play small, because coaching for free lets you off the hook when it comes to delivering great value.
I'm not saying that coaches should never coach for free of low fee. It's okay to do that at first (I even recomemmend it), or later if you're changing your business, but be sure you know what you're getting in return, such as experience, learning, referrals, or something else that will pay off in the long run.
Bottom Line: People reach their Greatness when they are givers, but you can receive even while you're giving. And if you don't receive for your coaching, the other people (a.k.a. your clients) won't reach their Greatness.
And isn't Greatness what coaching's all about?
Image by Bradleygee
Sales-impaired coaches sometimes hide behind the yuck-factor and claim they don't have enough clients, because they hate to sell. That's a lie.
Not selling your coaching boils down to one thing: your refusal to own your own fear and vulnerability.
Sure, integrity and sales skills matter, but there's a risk you'll be judged when you sell something intangible like coaching and it's safer to hide.
Learn from the 8-foot bride, the art of asking. Then challenge yourself to trust that much.
If you're a business, executive or corporate coach, you need data on how and why coaching works in order to make effective proposals. The ICF is an ongoing source of good data on coaching.
Below is an info-graphic that communicates the value of coaching in the workplace (Click to enlarge):
Take a free coaching course. Sign up for Designing the Coach/Client Relationship:
Hostages being freed, Egypt, 2008. Photo by Mohammed Ghafari, Flickr, Creative Commons.
Life coaching is confused with a number of other professions. Hostage negotiation isn't one of them. So it might shock you to know that effective hostage negotiation shares quite a lot with effective life coaching.
Why? Both coaching and negotiation are basically conversations between human beings. The same 'magic' communication skills work well, whether between coach and client, salesman and shopper, parent and teenager, or negotiator and terrorist. In fact, these conversations are really not all that different from each other.
I discovered this yesterday while reading Wired magazine collumnist, Eric Barker's interview with former top FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss,
who now teaches business negotiation at places like Harvard. In it, Chris shares tips and secrets on how to negotiate successfully, stop thinking like a schizophrenic, and why you should never settle for a one-boob breast augmentation.
Here are six ways Hostage Negotiation is like Life Coaching:
- You can't ignore emotions. Chris says one of the biggest mistakes many negotiators make is that they try to ignore emotion and just be rational. The problem with that, as he says is, "There’s a lot of scientific evidence now that demonstrates that without emotions you actually can’t make a decision, because you make your decisions based on what you care about." In coaching, what you care about is called your 'Values'. Great coaches always clarify their client's values, otherwise their clients can't make good choices. I tell my coaching students that emotions always have an underlying logic. Once you understand the meaning behind the emotion, it always makes sense and moving forward gets easier.
- You have to really listen. Most people don't really listen to each other; they just formulate their responses while the other person is talking. The result is that they don't really hear everything the other person is saying. Worse, it means most of us go through life without anyone ever really hearing us. That's a soul-slaughtering experience. No wonder some people go postal. Chris says negotiating with a schizophrenic is especially challenging, because a schizophrenic is often distracted by voices in their head. He says when you listen to your own voice in your head instead of to the other person, you're behaving like a schizophrenic who can't really hear what's going on. I couldn't say it better.
- Feed back what you're hearing. Chris says, "The idea is to really listen to what the other side is saying and feed it back to them. It’s kind of a discovery process for both sides. First of all, you’re trying to discover what’s important to them, and secondly, you’re trying to help them hear what they’re saying to find out if what they are saying makes sense to them." In coaching, this is called mirroring, or you can double-duty it and also acknowledge them as you mirror. Both of you will get more clarity. The other person will know you're really listening, which helps make a stronger connection. The result is greater openness and willingness to work with you.
- Keep clarifying. Chris suggests, "You can say, 'What are we trying to accomplish here?' Then, 'How is what you are asking for going to get you that?' Great coaching questions! Most people, terrorists and schizophrenics included, need help clarifying what they really want and how they're going to get it. That's what coaching's about. Apparently, that's an important part of hostage negotiation too.
- Never compromize. According to Chris, compromize is a terrible thing. The metaphor he uses is the husband who wants his wife to get a boob job. She doesn't want to do it, so they compromize and she just gets one. In other words, nobody gets what they really want. Coaches exist to help people get what they really want. Most people are so used to compromizing that what they tell you they want is usually just what they think they should want or what they think they can get instead of what they actually want. Trust me, your clients can get what they don't want on their own. They don't need to pay you thousands of dollars to help them compromize.
- Don't argue. If each side is presenting its arguments, neither is really listening (See #2). Instead of resolution, you get more conflict. If you want the other side to hear you, let them get their whole story out. Otherwise, that story will get in the way of their ability to hear you. It'll get in the way of getting what they want, too.
Obviously, there are key distinctions between life coaching and hostage negotiation. For starters, a negotiator has an agenda to resolve a horrible situation without anyone getting hurt or killed. In coaching, our only agenda is to help the client think and act more resourcefully so they can get what they really want. The negotiator may only be trying to buy time until the SWAT team can either rescue the hostages or arrest the terrorist. Big difference.
But people are people. They want you to hear what matters to them, even if they can't articulate that, yet. Maybe if more people were coached, fewer people would go ballistic.
Learn how to coach people on what really matters to them (and get a coaching certificate):
If you think you understand trends in business and life coaching, you're probably dead wrong.
Why? Because the future of humanity is about to change at even more breathtaking rates. That means the future of coaching is not what you think. Not even close.
How's that? We're about to reach a technological 'tipping point' across several technologies and this runaway world we live in is about get a million times faster.
You've heard of Moore's Law? It's the well-established prediction that computing power will double every 18 months, while prices plummit. In other words, exponential growth. Moore's Law has held true for decades. The current result is an iPhone processor that's more powerful than the 1970's Apollo rockets that travelled to the Moon. (which makes Apple's recent map app blunder seem especially silly)
If you were to graph exponential growth, you'd get what's known as a 'hockey stick' curve. At first you get a relatively long period of slow growth, with a slight incline, but at some point the numbers that are doubling become so huge that the curve goes virtually vertical. That's the tipping point or 'escape velocity' that we've just about reached with computing power.
Moore's Law is what futurists call a hard trend. It's a prediction that you can count on. Some futurists say that Moore's Law can be applied to other technologies as well, such as nanotech and artificial intelligence, and that when you combine these technologies, as they are doing at Singularity University, you get even more explosive growth and more escape velocity.
What does all this tech mean to coaches, other than the possibility that someday, Skype will stop bumping us off our free international video calls? Well if you consider Adizes' Change Constant (Change leads to problems, which lead to solutions, which lead to more change, etc.), our potential clients are about to have a lot more problems. They're mostly the kind of problems you want to have, as we say, but they still will feel like big problems to them. And that's when they hire coaches. But wait, before you cheer...
What kinds or problems are caused by explosive growth in the tech fields? Well first there are new jobs created, like IT professionals, website designers and virtual assistants; jobs most people couldn't conceive of 50 years ago. And then there is the elimination of jobs that are replaced by technology, like librarians, sign painters and secretaries. Painful! Except, every time technology replaces some jobs, it creates new ones, such as international tech support, robot repair, and home-based manufacturing. That's a cycle you can count on. New high-paid jobs are always on the horizon, only most people can't even conceive of them, much less get ready. That's scary.
Let's face it, our ancestors evolved back when exponential change equaled the invention of the wheel, the bow and arrow and roasted mastadon instead of raw. Those changes occured at the slow-sloping left side of the hockey stick curve and that's what your nervous system today is wired for, not change at the rate of a new job every year. Jeez.
People are going to need assistance in making constant life-changing transitions, the kinds our grandparents only made once or twice in a lifetime. Maybe we'll need more psychotherapists to talk us down off the ledge, but in this month's Wired magazine, Founding Editor, Kevin Kelly says robots will soon replace therapists. I don't know about that, but he also says nurses, teachers, personal trainers, waiters and surgeons will soon be robotic. The jobs will go to the people who manage the bots.
The best-paying jobs will go to those who can leverage the added value that technology is constantly creating. Beyond that, we can spend our time doing what we want.
So what's the one job Kevin Kelly says robots can't replace? The job of deciding what people really want to do.
Coaches help people decide what they really want to do.
Coaching is not a tech job, but technology creates the need for coaches. And it's creating more of that need all the time for coaches who are ready.
Can coaches be replaced by artificial intelligence? We're a long way from that, because coaching relies at least as much on 'right brain' intuitive skills, which have been a challenge to the computing field so far, as it does on linear processing skills. But they'll probably crack intuition, eventually.
However, no amount of AI will ever make robots human. You could program 3CPO to say, 'I believe in you', but those words ring hollow unless you hear them from someone whose opinion matters to you.
Coaching will likely be with us for several more decades, or at least until Siri gets programed to ask more than she tells.
What else is about to change? Everything from the demise of our current too-slow, too-expensive, too-ineffective system of higher education (watch this video of new Google University for what might be next); to the rise of the 'bottom billion' as a result of cheap smart phones that now connect impoverished people to unlimited information, to vertical farming that can scale up to feed 10 billion of us. To get a more complete picture, I highly recommend you read Abundance by venture capitalist and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis.
How can you get ready to coach in the coming decades?
Surprisingly, you don't need to chase every trend. And you don't need to coach huge numbers of people for less. Because the rise of technologies means there is also a trend at the other side of the spectrum. It's the one that leverages Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans concept and focuses on hyper-customization and hyper-personalization.
Chris Brogan calls this the 'bespoke business'. This is the type of business most successful coaches have. It includes just a few clients who each pay a hefty fee. It usually also includes some lower-priced options and free content in order to build relationships and true fans. This type of business is on the rise and looks like it's here to stay.
More people will need and want coaching in the coming future. Less expensive goods and services provided by automation will free up money. And with the coming need to prepare for new professions every year, the savvy will use that money to hire tutors, mentors and coaches to help them get where they need to go faster.
What's a good strategy for a coach moving forward into the super-high-tech world of the future? Become the best - perhaps the only - in your specialty. Get just-in-time training, be nimble and ready to pivot when things change dramatically, have your own coach and take super great care of yourself - you'll need it.
And have fun. Technology is designed to free us from drudgery. Coaching is the perfect profession for enjoying that freedom.
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