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The Softer Side of Commitment

Cute little red kitten sleeps on fur white blanketLast month I wrote on Commitment to the Team.  We explored what commitment on a team looks like.  The perspective I was writing from was ‘are your actions matched to your pledge of commitment’.  This month, I am exploring the softer side of commitment, which is primarily wrapped up in the relationship.

I have heard it said that relationships move at the speed of trust.  What does this mean?  Simply put, the higher the level of trust in a relationship, the more growth and vitality! What creates trust?  I suppose that is a million dollar question that has as many answers as there are people in the world.  Trust can look very different to each of us.  For me, trust shows up in consistency of agreed-upon behaviors.  For others, I know trust shows up in physical presence while for another it may be the ‘proof’ of something for them to feel trust.

The more relationships in a ‘system’ (meaning the team), the more complexities to establishing ‘trust’. I have outlined a few practices that I have found to be foundational to moving a team of relationships forward in trust.

Transparency: know what you stand for!
When people know what you stand for — whether they agree or not — they are more inclined to trust.  Transparency in the ‘why and what’ of decisions that impact the team will contribute to a high level of trust among team members.  Most team members understand that they will not always be in agreement with the parties making decisions.  However, if they have an understanding of what went into the decision-making process and why that decision was made, it takes away the feeling of a hidden agenda and ulterior motives.

Being reliable is often demonstrated by the consistency between what you say you will do and what you actually do.  The higher the level of consistency, the more people can count on you, the higher the level of reliability.  When something is reliable or dependable, we tend to trust it.  Researchers trust the reliability of research where there is a pattern of consistency in the statistics of the research.  As people in relationship, we tend to trust the reliability of another person if there is a pattern of consistency in what they say they are going to do or in how they are going to be and if their actions match up to that pattern.

Direct Communication
There is a difference between a directive and direct communication.  Direct communication is clear, articulate and constructive in nature.  It helps to give direction and feedback in a positive way by using language that is neutralized and not charged.  Charged language is heavy with judgment and biases.  Direct communication takes concerns to the source of the concern and keep the communication between the parties involved.  When team members experience a healthy atmosphere of direct communication, it helps to build trust and intimacy among team members because the communication is where it belongs.

Respect differences
A team may have core values and beliefs that everyone is in agreement on; however, that does not mean that individuals have the same values and/or beliefs.  Our values and beliefs drive our thoughts and feelings that in turn drive our behavior.  When someone shows up differently, instead of choosing to be in judgment of their difference, get curious about what is important to them or what they believe on the subject at hand.  This will foster an environment of respect.

In an environment of transparency, reliability, communication and respect, trust has the opportunity to take root and grow.  If relationships move at the speed of trust and you want your team to be growing and vital, then I encourage you to give these practices a place in your business.

Direct Communication

Man at Peace Between Two Yelling Women 600x400I use to think of Direct Communication as being harsh; it felt like an order being barked at me.  At least that was within the framework of what I thought direct communication was.  By the International Coach Federation definition, Direct Communication is “the ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the client”.  What strikes me about this definition is the phrase ‘to use language that has the greatest positive impact.  I was confusing harsh directives with direct communication!

In Our Profession
I went deeper into this core competency to explore what the indicators were saying.  These are my thoughts:

  1. Is clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback
    1. In order to be clear, judgment cannot be part of the equation.
    2. In order to provide direct feedback, we have to be careful about managing those thoughts that come up such as “I don’t want to hurt my client, or “I am afraid of what they will think”.
    3. When providing feedback, make sure it is in service of your client.
  2. Reframes and articulates to help the client understand from another perspective what he/she wants or is uncertain about
    1. When we reframe, we give the client something to bounce off of.
  3. Clearly states coaching objectives, meeting agenda, purpose of techniques or exercises
    1. Direct communication is CLEAR communication.  Taking the time to clarify objectives, topic, and exercises throughout the coaching is supporting direct communication.
  4. Uses language appropriate and respectful to the client (e.g., non-sexist, non-racist, non-
technical, non-jargon)
    1. Learning how to neutralize your language is key in high-level communication skills.
    2. ‘Dis-charge’ charged words that carry heavy judgment. (For example: Dis-charge YOU SHOULD with “How could you…?” or “What would you…?”.)
  1. Uses metaphor and analogy to help to illustrate a point or paint a verbal picture
    1. Metaphor often paints a picture for your clients.  For visual learners, this type of communication is very effective.
    2. Analogies take an intangible concept and tie it to something tangible, so the concept is more concrete and understandable.

In our Businesses
We often think of our coaching clients as our only customers.  However, we have internal and external customers.  Our clients are our external customers and our ‘alliances’ such as our accountant, lawyer, vendors, other professionals, etc. are our internal customers.  If you adopt the following core competency as a way to communicate with your internal customers, it will help you to build a strong business foundation.

What would that look like?  It may be that you establish some customer service standards for your internal customers that look like this:

  • I will give my alliances clear, articulate and direct feedback on how our alliance is working.
  • I will offer other perspectives freely if I feel that it would benefit the alliance.
  • I will be clear on our alliances’ objectives and purpose.
  • I will frame my communication in a positive manner using neutral language.

These customer service standards give ‘intention’ to the level of communication you want to establish with your business alliances.  Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report highlights findings from Gallup’s ongoing study of the American workplace from 2010 through 2012.  In that report, the findings stated that 70% of U.S. employees are not engaged, which costs the U.S. $450-550 billion per year in lost productivity.  In a further study by SMB Communications, the findings support Gallup’s report by stating that $26,041 is the cumulative cost per worker per year, due to productivity losses resulting from COMMUNICATION barriers.  It is clear that there is a need for Direct Communication to support the navigation of relationships on many levels.

In our Lives
Practicing Direct Communication across the board, whether it is in life, business or coaching will help to elevate your communication skills.  A few more tidbits on Effective Communication:

  • Take it to the source first; meaning, if something happens that creates tension, go directly to the source and approach the topic.
  • Keep your communication where it belongs and heighten your awareness to who is in the space.
  • If the communication would be harmful to someone else, don’t put it out there until you are in a confidential space.  (This includes around small children as well — they have ears and are always processing!)

Communication is a very powerful tool — we can build up or tear down with our communication.  My belief is that most people want to build up and these are some great guidelines to support you on that path.

The Triple-A, Power Packed Practices!


Portrait Of Three Female Friends On HolidayHave you heard of the power of three?  As a gardener there is a rule of thumb to plant in groupings of three.  Being raised Catholic; I became very familiar with the Holy Trinity.  As a professional coach, I learned about the power of the co-created relationship that includes the client, coach and relationship; each as separate and united parts of the whole.  Even habits are formed by a 3-loop process, as demonstrated in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: cue, behavior and reward.  The power of 3 is both scientific and artistic! Tapping into the science of three, I am going to share 3 practices that I have found key in the process of life and business success.  I call these the power-packed Triple A because if you want to move forward in your life or business, these 3 practices will serve you well.

I have always been a curious person and loved to sit and watch people and hypothesize what drove certain behaviors.  I never realized that I was strengthening a skill that would develop my sense of awareness. The skill of ‘watching’ is observing.  I observed human behavior — that was my interest and I became very attuned to behavior and language patterns.  However, when this skill really served me was when I started turning it inward: meaning, getting into observation of myself.  In order to really heighten your awareness it is important to periodically take a huge step back from the experience of life and work and get into observation.

For example, lets say you are in conflict with someone or with yourself.  Conflict is an area where a lot of people would rather sweep it under the rug than bring it out into the open.  This practice usually hurts you, the relationship and/or your business.

To heighten our awareness, we need to take a step back from the experience and ourselves and get into observation.  In doing so, try to remove all subjectivity and just observe the facts of the experience and your being in it.   This helps you to get present to the reality of the conflict.

After you remove the subjectivity, invite it back in.  The ‘subjectivity’ is how you are ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ about your experience.  What are your thoughts saying to you about your experience? What emotions came up for you?  What are your thoughts saying about your emotions?  We often times act subject to our thoughts and emotions so it is a great practice to get into observance of them and maintain some objectivity.  Your thoughts/emotions are only as powerful as you allow them to be! (Notice that the awareness is about YOU in the situation — not the other party in the conflict!)

Bringing awareness through observation techniques to the situation helps you to process the conflict and take the next step, which is Acknowledgment.

As you are pulling experiences into focus and becoming more aware of you in your experiences, acknowledge the reality of what is! Acknowledging is admitting the existence or truth of an experience.  In doing so, it gives you the power to deal with it.

If you do not acknowledge what is, you will not move beyond it.  You will bury it, avoid it, and resist it for the sake of the peace/harmony/fear or a number of other reasons. Here is the thing: what you resist will persist! Life has a way of bringing things back up until we allow ourselves to fall into it and learn how to recover. Acknowledge the conflict to the other party AFTER you have taken the time to heighten your awareness of the conflict and you in it.  A couple of things to remember when acknowledging:

  • Be honest
  • Speak from “I”
  • Name your perspective — what is your point of view?

When you have fully acknowledged an experience in your life or business, or as in this example, the conflict, then the final step in this power packed trio is Acceptance!

Acceptance is defined as ‘taking something given to you’. Notice that it does not say ‘taking something good, nice, positive, etc.! Sometimes it appears that life does not hand you what you want. Lets take conflict for example; you may not ask for it, but suddenly it appears!

The key is how quickly you can move into accepting the reality of what life is offering so you can choose what to do with it.  If you are in non-acceptance, you are setting yourself up for making someone or something wrong.  Three key questions if you feel you are struggling with acceptance:

  • Are you making yourself wrong?
  • Are you making your life wrong?
  • Are you making others in your life wrong?

The truth is you are not wrong, your life is not wrong, others are not wrong.

What may be making you feel ‘wrong’ is that you may not be in alignment with your values. This is an opportunity to get clear on what is important to you. Or you may be holding onto a belief system that no longer works for you: are you willing to change it?

Your life may feel wrong because it is not going the way you imagined; however you always have the power of choice!  When you exercise acceptance, you have more opportunity to get clear on what you need to do to bring your life back into alignment with you.

Others may feel wrong because they do not believe the way you do or value what you value – that just makes them different, not wrong.  Virginia Satir states, “We connect through our sameness, we grow through our differences.” We evolve as individuals and leaders when we learn to embrace differences as a growth catalyst, not a ‘wrong’ way of being.

When we practice heightening our awareness to our lives, acknowledging the reality of what exists for us and accepting where we are, we are contributing to our empowerment, which positively influences those around us.