Chatâ€™s are for pussies. How to create lasting change and massive results through conversation
Just recently, after an intense two-hour discussion, a Managing Director sat back and said â€˜I just donâ€™t see how having a chat with you every few weeks is going to make that much of a difference to my businessâ€™.
I donâ€™t do chats!!!
The key to fast transformation of results and performance is the willingness to engage in the tough conversations with yourself and with others on whom you rely. This week I want to take you through how I do these challenging conversations and why they are vital tools for transforming your results. Itâ€™s a longish article but read right through because there is gold in these hills.
You can use this approach in any conversation where you are seeking an outcome that is different from the one you are currently getting. I have used it to help people with business issues such as customer problems, sales, team and profitability challenges and personal issues including focus, wellbeing, stress and relationships. It is also a great framework for a conversation with yourself.
Why most coaching doesnâ€™t achieve results.
There was a point in my life where I was challenged in matters relating to the opposite sex. Someone told me to read â€˜Men are from Mars. Women are from Venusâ€™. One of the differences between men and women suggested by the book is that men, when presented with a problem during a conversation, go into solution mode. This annoys women because they donâ€™t want an answer, just empathy. In terms of moving forward from a place of being stuck the challenge is neither of these approaches actually works. Other peopleâ€™s solutions to your problems wonâ€™t work as well as your own and empathy, without action, doesnâ€™t resolve anything
There are Mars and Venus approaches to coaching. Many coaches offer models or frameworks to solve whatever your challenge may be. My experience is that these miss one simple point - You and the context within which you operate are unique. They intellectually make sense, and can be useful, but rarely produce the anticipated results if (and that is a big â€˜ifâ€™) implemented.
Alternatively there are coaches who take an alternative approach and work on your mind state. Typically this involves some analysis of how you perceive the problem and then getting you to â€˜seeâ€™ it differently. Again this is not unhelpful but my experience is that people can get addicted to the feeling of the nice state and then fail to take the action to resolve the problem.
I take a different approach that I believe solves the immediate problems at hand but also affects a deeper change in the person, such that they begin to show up differently in all aspects of business and life.
I met with an ex-client of mine recently. He has just completed an acquisition of a company, twice the size of his current business. We havenâ€™t worked together for a few years but he said something strange to me. â€œYou had a hand in thisâ€.
Other than a brief discussion about acquisitions in our first coaching session I do not recall acquisitions featuring as a subject that was attacked with any intensity in our work together.
This is not unusual. After a coaching conversation with me people start to show up differently and take decisions and actions that, at times, even surprise me. When I ask them they will either point to a particular conversation (normally nothing to do with what they went on and did) or, more often than not, they canâ€™t remember when and what it was. I tried to work out if it was a specific subject that triggered this change but, frustratingly, it was different for everyone.
In order to speed up change for people, and minimize the amount of wasted coaching time, I needed to understand what was going on behind the words.
The â€˜magicâ€™ in the conversation
Over the last five years I have studied with experts in the field of human psychology and performance, have coached for thousands of hours and studied people closely. In the end it was a conversation with my coach and mentor Dr Joseph Riggio (watch Joâ€™s incredible TED talk here) that helped me nail it.
It is not the content, or the solutions, that we identify that make my conversations powerful. It is the structure used and the willingness to hold people in the space where lasting transformation can happen.
The structure of the conversation takes people way beyond todayâ€™s challenges. It change how they think about business and life. It helps free up internal resources including levels of boldness, clarity, creativity and motivation that people never realised they had.
This doesnâ€™t just fix todays problem, it fixes the way you look at problems.
So before I plunge into the simple three-step model there are a few principles that underpin these conversations.
You do not change people. People change themselves.
You do not have the power to make people do things that they do not want to. If people are not willing or able to make the changes you want then you have two options; put up or shut up. Your focus should be to get the person to recognise the need for change themselves.
The longer you put off the conversation, the harder it becomes to effect the change you want
You know that difficult conversation? The one you keep putting off. You are making things worse by delaying it. Oh and that includes the long overdue conversation with yourself. ;-)
Forget everything you think you know about the person you are talking to.
If your head is full of your own beliefs and a pre-held picture of the person you are talking to, you will struggle to create the space for meaningful change to happen. The assumptions you are holding about the conversation can often be the very thing that is blocking progress. You are not a mind reader so stop pretending that you know what people are thinking.
Three steps to a powerful conversation
Step 1 â€“ Get away from the problem
Initially I am looking to understand how the person sat opposite me seeâ€™s the nature of the current problem and how they are relating to it. Some coaches will analyse the problem in detail, prodding it and dwelling on it until an answer appears. This holds the person in a negative space. There is a better way.
A problem only exists because you have an outcome you want (stop and think about that and you know its true for everything). Move the conversation to the desired outcome e.g. what do we want and what are we trying to achieve. My personal style here is to ask provocative questions (the ones you often want to ask but you bottle out of) and to temper them with humor. You will have your own approach and style for this.
Your goal is to gain complete clarity on how the person seeâ€™s the challenge and how they see themselves relative to it. You can ask them to look at the desired outcome from different people perspectives (customers, team members, partners etc.), what would need to change to achieve it and get them to describe what success would look like. At this point my focus is on just one thing; being curious.
Having opened this space it is important to then hold the person in it
Step 2 â€“ Hold the space open to explore
Listen to the answers you are getting and notice when they are not complete or the question itself is not answered. I make sure I am holding the person to a high standard of answer. I wonâ€™t let them avoid answering a question or to try to avoid anything. I particularly pay attention to generalisations (â€˜everyoneâ€™, â€˜weâ€™, â€˜alwaysâ€™ etc) and nominalisations (these are words that people use to describe things that arenâ€™t actually real things â€“ â€˜confidenceâ€™, â€˜respectâ€™, â€˜fearâ€™,â€˜loveâ€™. When I hear one I ask them to describe what that looks like for them).
I have learned (and on occasions still have to learn) to be comfortable with silences. We have a tendency to try and fill in quiet spaces but if you interrupt while they are thinking they can lose the thread that may be leading them to a breakthrough. During the conversation I am also attending to the body language and how they are holding experiences and sensations in their body. But lets not run before we can walk.
At no time in these conversations do I offer a solution. I filter in my own experience and thoughts using stories and metaphors. This allows the person to understand some of the principles underpinning their challenges without feeling like I am telling them how to fix it (this is NEVER my intention).
Holding someone in this space can feel awkward and maybe even uncomfortable but my experience is that true and lasting transformation happens in the discomfort of perturbation. When people are held in a place where they are challenging some of their long held values and beliefs it can often becomes emotionally charged.
Step 3 â€“ confront the paradox.
Ultimately the transformation naturally occurs when people see that whatever they saw as a problem was not really one and whatever was stopping them from taking action was not real. In fact almost all of the things we hold as problems are resolved by accepting one simple paradox. The magic occurs because once the person sitting opposite me truly seeâ€™s the paradox it doesnâ€™t just solve their immediate problems. It changes how they see everything.
The paradox of change
"Our primary concern is safety, so we view anything uncertain as potentially dangerous. The paradox is, there is no certainty in life, only probability based upon previous experience, knowledge, and the feedback we receive in the moment from the action we take. The only limited guarantee we have in life is that if we choose to do nothing, then nothing will change for us, but the system will continue to evolve around us"
So who is ready for a life changing conversation?
What's your problem?
If you could fix just one thing in your business what would it be?There are times when you just stumble across a problem in business that seem to have no easy solution. Perhaps its a lack of sales, a problematic customer or team member, or even just a need to clear your head and think strategically for a little while.
Now, as you would expect, my answer would be to work through the problem with me within the framework of one of my coaching programmes. Increasingly though, I recognise for many people this is a significant investment, or they are just not sure how, or if, it would really work.
So I have a new kind of deal for those of you who really want to try out working with me to solve a specific problem, without signing up to a long term programme, or having to sit through my sales pitch.
Whatever your problem is I am offering a one-off two hour intensive session to solve it for you. In the session we will address the problem at both the practical and personal level (I'm sure by now you get that in most cases you know what to do so the problem is not 'what' but 'why am I not not') so that you leave with a clear action plan and, more importantly the right frame of mind to get it done.
I'm only going to do ten of these sessions each month and they will be on a first come first served basis and I am only charging Â£200+ VAT for the sessions. No sales pitch just straight coaching and if you don't get what you need from the session I will give you your money back. No quibbling.
For more information and to book your session click here.
Serious about Business Growth?
There has never been a better time to explore and make a decision about working with me as your coach as you can access my support through the Government's Growth Accelerator service. This allows us to work together intensively for three months for as little as Â£600-Â£1500 (depending on business size and eligibility). This makes the decision to try coaching easy. I also offer a two month trial package tackling on your biggest business challenge. Click here and lets have a conversation.