CONSULTING & How Great Coaches Ask, Listen, and Empathize #HarvardBusinessReview

by Ed Batista, Harvard Business Review, 2/18/15.

Historically, leaders achieved their position by virtue of experience on the job and in-depth knowledge. They were expected to have answers and to readily provide them when employees were unsure about what to do or how to do it. The leader was the person who knew the most, and that was the basis of their authority.

Leaders today still have to understand their business thoroughly, but it’s unrealistic and ill-advised to expect them to have all the answers. Organizations are simply too complex for leaders to govern on that basis. One way for leaders to adjust to this shift is to adopt a new role: that of coach. By using coaching methods and techniques in the right situations, leaders can still be effective without knowing all the answers and without telling employees what to do.

Coaching is about connecting with people, inspiring them to do their best, and helping them to grow. It’s also about challenging people to come up with the answers they require on their own. Coaching is far from an exact science, and all leaders have to develop their own style, but we can break down the process into practices that any manager will need to explore and understand. Here are the three most important…

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COMMUNICATION & How to Win An Argument #IncMagazine

Adapted from an Inc. Magazine article by Sims Wyeth, 12/3/14.

  1. Don’t convert. Forget about trying to convert your adversaries. The chances of seeing them get down on their knees and apologize for being wrong are remote. Your job is to raise doubts about the wisdom of their view.
  2. Listen. Be a good listener. Make sure you hear and understand your opponent’s reasoning. Learn how to shift gears between listening well and thinking about how to respond.
  3. Clarify. If you are not sure about what your opponent has said, ask for clarification. In the heat of battle, we often counterattack reflexively without making sure we’ve heard the other party. It wastes time and makes you look bad.
  4. Stay calm and carry on. Be mindful of your emotions. When anger and fear overtake you, your cause will be weakened. Be passionate. Be expressive. But stay calm and carry on. Anger makes you less appealing.
  5. Take control. Pay a lot of attention to the agenda of the debate and the issue that you’re fighting over. She who defines the issues and establishes the priorities is on the way to winning.
  6. Get believers on board. Preach to the converted in the room. Preaching to the choir is vital. Preachers do it on a weekly basis. It strengthens the commitment, intellectual confidence, and morale of your allies, making them more effective advocates for your idea.
  7. Play to the undecided. Do not forget the uncommitted. They are, inevitably, the majority. Your job is to pull them in your direction by making vivid the advantages of your idea and the downside of your opponent’s. You will also earn trust with the undecided if you acknowledge that your idea is not perfect, but is nevertheless far superior to the alternative.
  8. Be humble. If you choose to make a broad appeal to everyone, offer to compromise and be modest and restrained in your presentation. You may also choose to make a sharply focused pitch to a particular audience, even at the risk of alienating others. Your choice.
  9. Hit your headlines. When you have a good point to make, make it often.
  10. Make a concession. Knowing what you can concede without damaging your stance is one of the great arts of winning an argument. As a debater, Abraham Lincoln conceded that states had rights, but not the right to enslave or export slavery to other states.
  11. Paint a picture. Analogy is a powerful and persuasive way to bring a point home, especially when the analogy links the subject at issue to the personal experience of the audience. For instance, I’ve heard it said that, during the financial crisis, what the banks did by selling toxic assets to their clients was the same as car dealers selling used cars with bad breaks to teenagers. But be careful with analogies. Use them sparingly. Be well armed to develop and defend the validity of the ones you use.
  12. Offer counterintuitive points. Think outside the box. For example, when quoting some well-known figure, quote one who isn’t normally identified with your case. My favorite example of this is Senator Barry Goldwater, an Arizona conservative, who seems to have endorsed a liberal view of gays in the military when he said, “You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.”
  13. Expose flaws and fallicies. Don’t condemn your opponent for her motives. Stick to poking holes in what she says.
  14. Be an iceberg. Learn more about your topic than you can conceivably use or show. But demonstrate a mastery of the facts and you will increase your authority and intimidate your opponent.
  15. Know your enemy. Understand the position of your adversary–not in a caricatured or superficial form, but at it’s strongest. Knowing your own position is only half the battle.
  16. Be plain. Be simple. Be earnest. Don’t try to impress. Check your emotional appeals at the door. Seek to persuade with a thorough, well-reasoned approach.

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LISTENING & 3 Ways Leaders Can Listen with More Empathy

By Christine M. Riordan, Harvard Business Review, 1/16/14.

Study after study has shown that listening is critical to leadership effectiveness. So, why are so few leaders good at it?… leaders need to start by really caring about what other people have to say about an issue. Research also shows that active listening, combined with empathy or trying to understand others’ perspectives and points of view is the most effective form of listening. Henry Ford once said that if there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put oneself in another person’s place and to see things from his or her point of view -bas well as from one’s own.

Research has linked several notable behavior sets with empathic listening.

1) The first behavior set involves recognizing all verbal and nonverbal cues, including tone, facial expressions, and other body language. In short, leaders receive information by all senses and not just hearing. Sensitive leaders pay attention to what others are not saying and probe a bit deeper. They also understand how others are feeling and acknowledge those feelings. Sample phrases include the following: Thank you for sharing how you feel about this situation, it is important to understand where everyone is coming from on the issue; Would you share a bit more on your thoughts on this situation; You seem excited (happy, upset…) about this situation, and I would like to hear more about your perspective.

2) The second set of empathic listening behaviors is processing, which includes the behaviors we most commonly associate with listening. It involves understanding the meaning of the messages and keeping track of the points of the conversation. Leaders who are effective at processing assure others that they are remembering what others say, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and capture global themes and key messages from the conversation. Sample phrases might include the following: Here are a couple of key points that I heard from this meeting; here are our points of agreement and disagreement; here are a few more pieces of information we should gather; here are some suggested next steps—what do you think?

3) The third set of behaviors, responding, involves assuring others that listening has occurred and encouraging communication to continue. Leaders who are effective responders give appropriate replies through verbal acknowledgements, deep and clarifying questioning, or paraphrasing. Important non-verbal behaviors include facial expressions, eye contact, and body language. Other effective responses might include head nods, full engagement in the conversation, and the use of acknowledging phrases such as ‘That is a great point.’

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