Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

Empowering Questions for the Coach-Centric Leader

August 3rd, 2016 • by Laura Scott •

puzzle peicesWhen I do workshops on Coach-Centric Leadership, we spend a lot of time crafting empowering questions that leaders can use with their teams to empower, engage, and problem solve.

The most challenging thing about this is that sometimes the most empowering questions require that you “play dumb.” When I’m doing a 1:1 meeting with the client I will preface these questions by saying, “Permit me to ask a really dumb question…”

The magic of these “dumb” questions is that they challenge all the assumptions that we are making about what is “true” or possible, we challenge the status quo, and we gain valuable information that otherwise we wouldn’t have uncovered using more direct close-ended questions.

All the best empowering questions start with “What” or “How.” Questions that start with the word “Why” often will put people on the defensive and a person in defensive mode will typically retaliate, clam up, or start to finger point. None of which is good.

I invite you to think about how you can craft four or five open-ended questions starting with “What” or “How” you can have at the ready for those times when you really want to investigate the truth and co-create solutions with your team.

Here’s an example of three empowering questions that I like to use :

“What would be one baby step that you could make this week that would make you feel proud and accomplished and put you closer towards that goal?”

“What are the unknowables that are getting in the way of us moving forward?”

“How might we craft a solution where everybody wins?”

As a coach who has worked with many of the top leaders in a variety of industries, I likely have an answer to all of these questions, but they are flawed, because they are my answers and not my clients.

It’s my job as a coach to empower my clients to craft their own solutions based on their skills, knowledge, and values. The only way I can do that is to shut up and ask the empowering question. And in doing so I learn so much more about my client and what is possible for them and their organizations. The same holds true for the leader. If we can set aside what we know and be curious, we can challenge all of the assumptions, we can exploit the wisdom in the room, and engage and empower others as solution partners.

The Gift of Anger and Sadness

July 14th, 2015 • by Laura Scott •

miserable kidAs an executive coach, I help my clients deal with some pretty highly-charged emotional states. And during those times I invite my clients to suspend judgment around certain emotions that they think of as “bad.” Sometimes my clients feel compelled to apologize for emotions like anger and sadness. They want to quickly move through these emotional states, deeming them unproductive or negative.

It’s true that my job as a coach is to help my clients become “unstuck” and move forward productively and strategically. However I can’t help but see the gift that our emotions bring. With awareness and with empathy we can actually learn how to use our emotions to be more authentic as leaders and to connect and engage with others more effectively.

I won’t belabor you with stats and scientific studies that back this up, but trust me they’re out there. If you want to skip the scientific literature and experience this for yourself, I invite you to see the recent Pixar movie “Inside out.” When Pixar was in development with this film, Pete Docter, the writer and director of the film, consulted with two emotion experts, University of California psychologists Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman, to understand how the emotions of the 11-year-old character would impact her experience and her relationships, as her family made a disruptive cross-country move.

This is what Keltner and Ekman shared with Pete Docter about the science of emotions, as summarized in their NY Times article titled “The Science of ‘Inside Out'”:

“Emotions organize — rather than disrupt — our social lives. Studies have found, for example, that emotions structure (not just color) such disparate social interactions as attachment between parents and children, sibling conflicts, flirtations between young courters and negotiations between rivals.

Other studies find that it is anger (more so than a sense of political identity) that moves social collectives to protest and remedy injustice. Research that one of us has conducted has found that expressions of embarrassment trigger others to forgive when we’ve acted in ways that momentarily violate social norms.

This insight, too, is dramatized in the movie. You might be inclined to think of sadness as a state defined by inaction and passivity — the absence of any purposeful action. But in “Inside Out,” as in real life, sadness prompts people to unite in response to loss.”

When I work with clients on emotional self-mastery and resilience, we intentionally suspend judgment around the emotion and simply look at emotions as benign signals; signals that prompt us to be empathetic observers and strategic decision-makers around how we want to show up, or engage, in response to that emotion.

As the studies show, emotions can serve to unite us in empathy or in actions towards justice. In fact, all altruistic actions are birthed by our emotions, including anger at the injustice we see in our world.

So the next time you find yourself in a highly-charged emotional state, don’t judge yourself or the emotion. Instead, see this as the opportunity it is; an opportunity to use this emotion as the fire that forges the metal. And you are the blacksmith in the process a creating the person, or the leader, you want to be.