I’m So Busy – How Do I Prepare for a Meeting?

You’re a busy manager and it’s Sunday evening.  You’re trying to get ready for the upcoming week.  You log onto your work calendar and incredulously look at your Monday schedule wide-eyed.   You are booked with continuous back-to-back meetings from 7 am until 6 pm!

“What happened?” you ask yourself.  Then you remember that a dozen people have access to your calendar and, being the ultimate pleaser, you have agreed to every meeting request.  Without realizing it, you have set yourself up.  It looks as if you will have no down time at all during the day.

And you won’t have something else:  The ability to mentally and physically prepare for each scheduled meeting.  From one-on-ones to team sessions, you will jump from conference room to office and back again continuously.  And at the end of the day, you will try to make meaning of it all.

“I’m just incredibly busy – and that’s the way it is,” some clients tell me.  Others try to convince themselves – and me –  that they are exceptionally good at multi-tasking, and besides, “I just facilitate the sessions and direct others – I don’t need to do the work that comes out of the meeting.”

I sometimes ask clients, “And who does the mental work preparing for the meeting?”  As we probe a bit deeper with my questions, some managers admit to me that they walk into a room and see the faces sitting around the table and sometimes realize they have not the slightest clue as to the focus of the meeting.  They often buy time by blurting out, “So why are we all together today?”  A sardonic smile from me to the client illuminates a self-confession for some: “Yeah, that might not elicit the most confidence in my people!”

A metaphor comes to mind involving commercial aviation.  Professional pilots spend time during the relatively low-workload time of level cruise flight to “brief the approach” phase of the flight.  They pull up the diagrams and descriptions of the expected instrument approach and carefully review the various altitudes, headings, frequencies and even the rare “missed approach” that might be necessary if a go-around needs to be initiated.  That preparation serves as a mental picture for the pilots so that they know what to expect when they get into a high workload situation and are mentally prepared for what we call a “critical phase of flight.”

While your daily meetings might not be as challenging as flying a successful approach and landing in a commercial airliner, in the aggregate they add up to success for your organization and in the cohesiveness of your team.

There are a few ways in which you can approach your busy day.  Blocking out some time each morning and afternoon can help, although middle-level managers can find that their bosses might grab those free sessions for their own meetings.  Another approach is to schedule meetings with built-in buffers in between.  Some managers favor 30 or 45 minute meetings, giving themselves time before and afternoon to both make meaning of their previous sessions and prepare for the next one.

The key, of course, is intention.  And exploring that intention can be assisted and supporting in the coaching process.  If your desire is to know the planned outcomes of a meeting and how best to support your people, then you can spend 15 minutes sketching out ideas, perhaps writing notes on a prepared agenda.  There is a mindfulness aspect of corporate life that is important to recognize.  Practicing such mindfulness need not be limited to your yoga class or quiet time alone in the morning.  It can assist you in preparing for each meeting of your day and creating your own “approach briefing,” to ensure a successful landing!

This article originally appeared on bostonexecutivecoaches.com.

How Do I Give Feedback To My People?

You’ve made it into a leadership position. You are finally a manager! You take the new job seriously, knowing that the responsibilities include meeting strategic goals, managing budgets, and making presentations to senior management. Those challenges are daunting, but you feel well prepared, due to your background, education, and business experience.

And yet there is one area with which you are uncomfortable – the ability to give feedback to the women and men on your team!

While your formal education likely focused on balance sheets, corporate finance, and strategic planning, the idea of giving meaningful perceptions about professional growth to others was likely not formalized – and it was probably left to your own devices and experience.

Many clients with whom I have worked were not provided much in the way of meaningful, timely feedback or instructions on how to do it. For some, even if it was taught, such training was limited, and for most individuals, regrettably, it was a bit of an afterthought.

I recently worked with a client who was working hard to figure out how to provide performance expectations to one of his team members. The subordinate had a desire to learn and excellent work ethic, but there were areas where my client felt as if the client had stalled in his growth trajectory.

“What have you told him about your expectations?”  I asked my client during the session.

My client looked at me for a long second and then said, “Well, I didn’t really know what to say, because I’m afraid I’ll hurt his feelings.”

“Well, how does he react when you praise him for the work he’s accomplished?” I added.

“That’s not something I’ve ever done – I figure he knows when he’s doing a good job. After all, I’ve been in this business for 20 years and no one has ever given me positive feedback for my contributions.”

We spent some time talking about my client’s experience and his desire to be intentional about feedback. We talked about the annual performance appraisal which was a source of discomfort for both the leaders and the subordinates at his company. There is significant literature on this subject.

Many executives are uncomfortable with just sitting down and talking with someone about how they are performing and how they can grow as professionals. Perhaps it is because our organizational focus is so often on strategy and measurable business goals. Often, leaders feel as if personal growth will occur as a result of achieving results.

The ability to sit down with one of your people and join with them on their professional – and yes, personal – journey, is one of those differentiators for leaders. The women and men who can take a few minutes every day and provide an ear, or a perception – they are the rare ones who build relationships a few minutes at a time. They are the masterful leaders whose subordinates are never surprised with the results of a periodic performance review.

I worked with a client one time who tells his subordinates: “You’ve written your own performance appraisal in the hundred conversations we’ve had this year. You’ve explored where you are strong, where you need to grow and you’ve learned as a result – today we get to celebrate that growth and look to the future!”

There are a lot of ways a leader can reach out. One is the gift of oneself.  And that involves working on your own skills of empathy and compassion.

The so-called “soft skills” are really the key to nuancing the concept of leadership. If you can connect with the members of the team and help them grow, then you have demonstrated the ability to grow yourself!

You can learn more about how to provide feedback and your own growth trajectory with executive coaching at Boston Executive Coaches. We stand ready to assist you on your journey!

 This article by Dave Bushy originally appeared on bostonexecutivecoaches.com

Attend to Others – Give Them the Gift of Yourself

Listening

I learn from every client.  One lesson in particular that comes to mind came from a young leader with whom I recently worked.

My client was extremely curious about how others saw her.  She worked hard at becoming aware of her own well-developed sides and those she discerned might be less developed.  She was a veritable sponge for learning!

Her growth as a leader was amazing, as she honed skills at dealing with others who might have different styles and perspectives, recognizing her own resistance to change and then setting judgment aside, using the lens of learning and appreciation for others. She worked hard in listening and in taking the time to pause.  It was a remarkable journey to watch.

As significant as her progress was, though, it was surpassed by something deeper and more meaningful for her: The idea of connection with others.  It came in a realization to my client one day as she spoke about the coaching experience.  I asked her what meant the most to her.  She answered,

“I’m very busy as a leader and people seldom take the time to just ask, ‘How are you?’ and ‘What’s on your mind?’

The gift you gave to me each session was that you asked me those questions and so many more.  And then you just listened.  You allowed me to explore who I am and how I want to grow.”

As a coach, I nodded and smiled – I appreciated her kind comment.   And I asked just one more question:

“And what did you learn from that experience?”

My client’s profound response:  First, she paused and then she looked at me intently, and said, smiling,

“We all need someone to ask about us, and we all need someone to listen.  We need to give the gift of ourselves and attend to others.”

Such moments are so powerful for a client and her words can provide perspective for all of us.  So much of what we do as leaders is transactional, filled with strategy and the innumerable tasks we handle daily.  Sometimes we lose sight of the need to connect with others – and to remember that the relationship with our people is of paramount importance.  It precedes and indeed should supersede the tasks we handle.

Especially during these challenging times, each of us needs to have someone look at us, ask how we are, and then just give the gift of listening, with our ears, our eyes and our heart.  My client aptly called it “attending to others,” as the greatest gift we can give.

Think about leaders working at home today with no clear lines of demarcation between their abode and the workplace.  Many are trying to be playmates with their children and supervising their schoolwork. They are shopping and cooking and going non-stop.  The stresses are greater than they have been for any of us in recent memory.

We can’t necessarily solve such issues for our people.  And most people don’t really expect us to be able to do so.  We all need to just ask the simplest of questions:

“How are you today?  And what’s on your mind?”

And then just listen. With our eyes, our ears, and our hearts.

 

This article originally appeared on bostonexecutivecoaches.com.

Faith and the Optimistic Stance

Faith is a word which elicits different thoughts and emotions for each of us.  For some, it is a sense of trusting others or implicitly knowing we are understood or respected.  For others, it can be the feeling that we will always be encouraged by our friends, colleagues and fellow travelers, especially in time of need.  And for many, like me, it is centered on a belief in a higher power.  Often, it is all of those things combined – and more.

Faith and optimism are intertwined.  One cannot truly believe that something positive will happen in the future without taking a metaphorical leap of faith that is centered in optimism.  Be it a soldier looking over in the foxhole at the man next to him or the coworker with whom you’ve worked for years – it takes faith and optimism to know that the other person will always have your back when the challenges – and battles – confront us.

My colleagues at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) have a wonderful perspective called the “Optimistic Stance.”  Their outlook says, “Gestalt takes a realistic view of the present and an optimistic view of the possible, preferring to work in the development of the potential within an individual or system rather than correcting them.”   In other words, they see each system, be they families, teams or much larger groups, as having inherent capabilities that can be appreciated and noticed.  Once they are pointed out, growth is unleashed, which serves every system. Read More…

Podcast: Executive Coaching: Impacting Performance at all Levels of Leadership

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi interviews executive coach, Dave Bushy, of Boston Executive Coaching.

Over the last 20 years, executive coaching has stepped into the foreground as a way of providing hyper-focused development support to key leaders in organizations. Now, organizations around the world are beginning to see for themselves the impact that executive coaching can have on performance at all levels. Dave describes the difference between coaching and training, the evolution of coaching, and how technology will affect coaching in years to come.

Released: March 25, 2020

Show notes: Dave refers to a favorite book of his titled Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

The Calm in the Center of the Storm

calm in the center of the storm

As we face today’s challenges and uncertainties, we are all experiencing emotions and thoughts that we have seldom, if ever, confronted before.

Life indeed throws challenges our way.  And those challenges have varying degrees of uncertainty.  The end result is a sort of disorientation that, to most of us, can be downright scary.  It’s akin to being on a ship in the middle of a stormy sea, or an airplane experiencing severe turbulence.  Few of us have been in such situations and therefore cannot know either the duration or the outcomes that might occur.  Consequently, we can become lost in our own thoughts and emotions, filled with recurring worry about the future.

And we can feel alone.

These are the times that each of us needs to take a turn being the calm in the center of the storm.  And it is not just the leaders in organizations that can and should do it.  It is everyone. Read More…

The Unseen Backpack

Man with backpack

I was driving down the street the other day, dutifully following the GPS instructions, which wended me through neighborhoods, built-up areas and a variety of other places.  At one point, a driver suddenly pulled out in front of me and proceeded to move forward at no more than ten miles per hour.  I couldn’t see the driver and I felt for a moment that I should get irritated that someone had the audacity to hold up my very important (or so I thought) trip.

Then I saw the building the person had pulled out from.  It was a local hospital.  My mind shifted from some level of irritation to a feeling of embarrassment and compassion.  The driver might have just left the bedside of a loved one, or received a diagnosis that was life-threatening.  Or maybe a relative, friend or neighbor might have just passed away.  I thought about such times in my life and instantaneously wrote a narrative of understanding and empathy for the driver.

In life and the business world, we often don’t get such stark reminders of our own need for emotional intelligence, appreciation, and understanding of another person.  So we are prone to draw conclusions that are judgmental, perhaps giving us a high level of justification for our own feelings and a near-certainty that the other person might just not care or is oblivious to our needs or the needs of the business.  Doing so can serve as a sort of misplaced validation of our own importance or our own instincts, I suppose.  At least I know I have felt that way at times. Read More…

A Platform for Learning: The Role of a Sponsor in Executive Coaching

platform for learning

“Yes, my boss fully supports the idea of my receiving executive coaching,” a prospective client answers. “And the company will pay for it – they see it as an investment!”

Those are great words to hear from a client as she or he begins the exciting journey of executive coaching. Such a message provides a sense of the support the client is receiving from the company and from the individual to whom they report – their boss.

As we set the stage for coaching engagements, the boss, who usually serves as the “sponsor” for the coaching, is a critical part of the process. Oftentimes, though, I sense that while the boss is a strong supporter of the idea, the role of sponsorship might be so new to him that he is not able to fulfill this critical role in a manner that will best facilitate the coaching for the client.

So what is the role of a sponsor in executive coaching? Essentially it is about building a platform for learning.

Read More…

Coaching by Leading from Beside

Coaching by leading from beside

Coaching is good for you.

Think back to the people in your life who you’ve advised, whose potential you’ve recognized, and whose talents you’ve used to help you discover and shape your own.

Didn’t that process feel good?

According to research, coaching others has positive psychophysiological effects that restore the body’s natural healing processes and improve stamina. “When we care enough to invest time in developing others, we become less preoccupied with ourselves, which balances the toxic effects of stress and burnout.”

Great leaders are part coach, part communicator, part motivator and always in service of the team they lead. It’s never about them, but rather about the people they serve. Read More…

Getting The Most From Your Investment In Leader Coaching

coffee cup

Businesses today are investing significantly in developing leadership and management talent, and leader coaching is increasingly becoming a core component of development programs. If you are making decisions about how to leverage coaching for leader development, there are lots of variables to consider. And there is a lot at stake – what leaders learn and achieve through a leader development program can impact hundreds, perhaps thousands of others in your organization.

Today, most leader coaching is targeted at developing the capabilities of high-potential performers. Having built leadership coaching programs in two organizations, and being a practicing executive coach, I want to share some observations and advice with those responsible for facilitating leader developing programs, specifically around selecting and using coaches.

Read More…