Thursday, July 30, 2015

Powerful Questions

One of the touchstones of professional life coaching is the ability to ask powerful questions.  One author defines powerful questions as “provocative inquiries that put a halt to evasion and confusion.”  (Kimsey-House, et al, Co-Active Coaching, 3rd ed.).  One might say that these are questions that challenge the client to move to the next level in clarity, action, and discovery.  Such questions are very important in a process that seeks to help individuals become the best, most productive, and most fulfilled people that they can be.

Christian Coaches Network International conducts regular continuing education seminars online on both the ICF core competencies and best practices related to coaching.  In a recent presentation, Janice Lavore-Fletcher of Christian Coaching Institute offered some interesting perspectives on asking powerful questions. One of the ideas I found particularly interesting was the difference between transactional questions and transformational questions.

Transactional questions are “doing” questions.  They address actions and details, the kinds of things that task oriented such as me like.  Transactional questions produce “to do” lists.  For example, if a client is concerned about time management, the coach works with her to produce SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) Goals to achieve.

Transformational questions are “being” rather than “doing” questions.  These are the questions that get to a person’s motivation.  For example, if a client brings up time management as a concern, the first question might be, “Why is time management important to you?”  Transformational questions seek to help the client understand how the selected area for growth aligns with one’s core values.  The result is a more motivated person who understands why someone wants to address a need.

Both types of questions are necessary in a coaching conversation but if the appropriate amount of time is spent on the transformational questions, a person will be more motivated to follow through on the answers to the transactional questions.

What are the powerful questions that you should be asking yourself?

Meditation on a Metaphor

 “The squirrels are fighting in and about the oak tree whose roots extend to unseen places below me and whose branches extend toward the infinity of sky above me. Yes, the squirrels are raising a ruckus. But the Old Oak is unmoved but still growing, and I love Her Shade and the hope of Her Acorns.”

My friend Brad Bull posted this on his Facebook page recently.  My response was to ask if this was a metaphor for some particular event.  He did not respond directly, so I will put my spin on it (with his permission to reproduce his comment).

A lot of things have happened in our country over the past two months.   Some have grieved, some have rejoiced, some have forgiven, some have become angry.  Society and culture work that way.  We find our own ways to cope or make sense out of change, when things seem out of control.  None of us in complete control; if you think you are, I can recommend a good counselor to you.

Here's my "spin" on Brad's comment.  The church has been around for two thousand years.  Sometimes it has led and sometimes it has followed.  The church has blessed and it has oppressed.  The key thing is that the church has survived and prospered.  Why? Because the church (and by this I mean those who are called into fellowship with Christ) has listened to the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit has informed, transformed, and empowered believers through time of significant change and crisis.  Of course, sometimes this adjustment takes awhile.  

Since the Bible does not condemn slavery, Christians used the acceptance of the practice in the first century to justify its practice well into the 19th century.  At the same time, Jesus said a lot about caring for the poor, orphaned, and widowed but somehow that message hasn't gotten through to all of us yet. Change can be very slow.

Accepting change is never easy. Winston Churchill said "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing--after they have tried everything else."  The same can be said for the church.  Even when we realize that the Spirit is calling us into something new, the process of change can be slow and agonizing.  The only real sign of life is change.  It is time that we understand and embrace that truth.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

The name Genghis Khan brings to mind thundering hordes of Mongol horsemen, slashing and burning their way through civilized nations.  Most of us know little about the Mongol ruler.  In 1956, Howard Hughes made a movie about Genghis Khan called “The Conqueror” with John Wayne in the title role which was less than historical and is best forgotten.

In Genghis Khan andthe Making of the Modern World, author Jack Weatherford illuminates the rather obscure origins of this 12th and 13th century leader.  According to Weatherford, “Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan was the most successful conqueror in world history, and he redrew the boundaries of the world.”

 Genghis Khan or Temujin, his original name, does have a bloody back story.  He murdered his own brother to allow himself to become leader of the family clan and did not hesitate to dispatch by the sword long time friends and family members who opposed him.  Despite this violent beginning, Weatherford argues that the Mongol leader became a gifted leader whose innovative military tactics and creative methods of governance transformed the world and laid the foundation for trade routes, customs, and nations that survive until today.

This ruler who came from humble origins not only valued the education and skills of those he conquered, but he sought to incorporate loyal and talented individuals—no matter their race or religion—into the governance of his empire.  Although he was a follower of “the Eternal Blue Sky,” a tribal religion based in the mountains of his homeland, he promoted religious tolerance for all faiths and included Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists among his advisors.   When representatives from the Pope tried to proselytize and make exclusive claims about the Christian faith, however, they were ejected from the court.

Weatherford writes, “At a time when most rulers considered themselves to be above the law, Genghis Khan insisted on laws holding rulers as equally accountable as the lowest herder. He granted religious freedom within his realms, though he demanded total loyalty from conquered subjects of all religions.” At a time when Western Europe lived in squalor and fear, Genghis Khan was building an empire that promised peace and prosperity for all its citizens, not matter their social or racial status.

Weatherford’s book provides an informative background to modern culture and civilization.  As we seek ways to bring people of different cultures together today, we need to understand how we got to where we are.  Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World helps to provide this background.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ask, Seek, Knock

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”—Matthew 7:7, NIV

Children are good at asking questions:  “Where is God?”  “Why are peaches fuzzy?”  “What are those green things on the bread?”  We are born with an innate desire to understand our world.  Properly focused, good questions provide new information and ideas and assure continuing growth.  Conversely, failing to ask questions stifles one’s growth.

In Disciple Development Coaching©, the first step in the process is “Ask.”  The coach does the asking, but only as a surrogate for the client—the person being coached.  The asking that the coach does is not for his or her own acquisition of knowledge, but to encourage the client to reflect upon and understand personal strengths, values, and goals.  The coach wants the person being coached to have a conversation with himself or herself, perhaps putting into words some things that the client has never considered before.  As one client said to me, “Once I put that (her career dream) into words, it suddenly became real and now I have to deal with it.”

The coach is not asking questions out of simple curiosity to advance his or her knowledge.  The coach asks questions for the sake of the person being coached.  As the client responds, new doors are opened. 
These may be doors of service, spiritual growth, or professional development. 

A good coach encourages the client to ask, seek, and knock by modeling those practices.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

SMART Goals and CLEAR Goals

This summer I am facilitating an online “Coaching Practicum” class of very sharp, involved students.  We are doing much of the class in a participative, seminar-type approach with the students taking responsibility for certain topics.  They bring new and refreshing insights to the course and expand my knowledge in the process. 

One student was assigned to present on SMART Goals last week.  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  We used this approach in Disciple Development Coaching© and the student had been using such goals since her college days including a time in a professional training setting.  In her research, however, she came up with an alternative called CLEAR Goals.  CLEAR stands for the following:
  •  Collaborative—Does the goal encourage the person to work with others in order to accomplish the goal?
  • Limited—Is the goal clearly limited in both scope and time?
  • Emotional—Does the goal tap into the individuals’ energy and passion?  Is there emotional engagement?
  • Appreciable—Can the goal be broken down into smaller goals that can be achieved more quickly and easily, providing an early sense of accomplishment?
  • Refinable—Is there freedom to revisit the goal as circumstances change or new information surfaces so that the goal remains relevant?
This approach is very attractive for me because it incorporates some key behavioral insights that make coaching effective.  First, we work more effectively to achieve goals in a community of accountability.  Second, we must formulate goals that stretch us but are achievable with the resources at our disposal.  Third, we will work to achieve those things about which we are passionate—the things that give us energy.  Fourth, early success—grasping “low hanging fruit”—motivates us for the long haul of change.  Fifth, we must be agile in order to address the rapidly changing environment in which we find ourselves.

Good coaching involves clarity of purpose and direction but also appropriate incentives and motivation.  The CLEAR Goal idea is a great tool to incorporate all of these into a culture of growth and achievement.

If you are interesting in learning more, Peter Economy and Tori Reid have online articles fleshing out this concept.  Thanks to Kristin Wooldridge for sharing this idea with the “Coaching Practicum” class.