Motivation – Throwing Away the Carrots and Sticks

I’ve managed people most of my career, and I’ve worked in teams all my life. If you had asked me early in my leadership career what motivates someone at work I would have probably told you either having a good salary or maybe having a spiffy title. And of course who doesn’t think a big bonus is motivating?

To effectively lead people, I thought you needed carrots and sticks in the right balance for motivation to work. Somehow in my gut I knew that it was too simplistic, and soon my own experience managing people started to disprove that theory.

My anecdotal experience and observations about trying to motivate with financial rewards, promotions and titles: Rewards became an expectation for baseline performance instead of improving performance! I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard people complain about their bonus payments.

Now, some of you may have read a book called Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The author Daniel Pink, a bit of a leadership guru, has helped me see what really motivates people.

In his book Pink talks about the evolution of motivation from survival instincts, to the carrot and stick methodology, to what he calls Motivation 3.0. This latest notion replaces carrots and sticks with values and purpose.

What I found most interesting is how convincing Pink is in proving that the carrot and stick approach to motivation doesn’t work, especially in work that is complex, requires creativity or involves problem solving. Pink demonstrates that these traditional short-term motivators actually reduce creativity, and foster very short-term thinking at the expense of long-term results.

What really motivates people?

Pink argues:

  • Autonomy – the desire to direct your own life;
  • Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and
  • Purpose – to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Since I left the world of government and big corporations to start my own business working with talented leaders to help them reach greater success, I’ve had a chance to further test this theory. By diving in with my clients, exploring with them what really gets them going and works with staff I’ve come to believe that Pink has it right.

Don’t take my word for it — give this a try: Grab a sheet of paper and make two columns. Label the first one “What I Liked” and the second one “How I Felt.” The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is to think of a leader you liked. Go ahead and close your eyes for just a moment and think about that great leader, the one you really admired.

This leader could be a mentor in your business, a former boss, or maybe even a teacher or professor who once taught you. Now take a minute to jot down in the first column what you liked about this leader. Now, in the next column, take a moment to write how they made you feel. Go ahead, take a moment and reflect on what you’ve written before you continue.

Okay, now let’s think of the opposite. On the back of your sheet of paper again put two columns, only this time label them “What I Didn’t Like” and “How I Felt.”

Think back to a time where you’ve had a leader in your life – again could be a former employer, manager, professor or even a colleague. The kind of person no matter what they were paid, it was too much.

Think of someone you wanted to help find a new job – in a competing firm! In the first column jot down what you didn’t like about this person. Take a moment to be very descriptive.

Now think about how it felt to be around this person. Try to remember how you felt inside, and record these feelings in the second column.

Now, when you look at those lists you know in your heart what great leadership is. For the good leader you’ve likely written down things like “inspiring,” “really challenged me” or “helped me find my way.”

Maybe you mentioned “respect” or that this leader “gave good feedback.” Chances are you didn’t write “paid me well” or “gave big bonuses.”

In the case of your example of “that other guy” you may have written things like “made me feel small,” “criticized,” “didn’t help,” or even “they were a bully.”

When I’ve done this exercise with clients I’ve had many respond with “I was bored working for him,” “she micromanaged me” or they said the leader was a “perfectionist.”

There are two key points to consider when we look at the lists under our two types of leaders: We know in our hearts what great leadership looks like and we get a sense of the motivators we need to provide to be a good leader.

An effective leader motivates by building relationships. How does a good leader build relationships? Not with carrots and sticks, but by one conversation at a time.

Our coaching question for you today is: How can you change the motivators for your team, to inspire them — and you — to greatness?

Care to share your thoughts on motivating your team? Have you had a great experience with motivating a team? Why not share them with us and our readers in the comment box below!


Are You Preparing for an Even Better Year?

Have you ever been looking forward to grabbing a coffee with a friend only to end up listening to him or her complain about work? Or, maybe you’ve been the one dominating the conversation with work issues?

How did the conversation go? Did it help either of you, or did it just feel better for a while without changing anything?

Sometimes it’s great to just vent a little with a friend, get a few things off the chest. Maybe you weren’t even complaining; maybe you were just musing about “how great it would be if….” Often though, a coffee chat with a friend doesn’t solve the problem. It feels better for a bit, but eventually reality is still there.

At this time of year many of us make resolutions — we’re going to hit the gym, we’re going to eat a little better, drink a little less, find a little more time for ourselves or we’re going to tackle those challenges that are holding us back at work. Unfortunately, often sometime in January many of us succumb to habit and go back to our old ways.

If you’ve decided this New Year’s your going to tackle a work or career challenge, a coach can help you solve the problem or achieve the win that you’ve been looking for. A coach will help you figure out how you’re going to do things differently this year, and get you through that danger period when most of us fall back on old habits — and you won’t have to burden your friends over coffee!

Whether you want to score a promotion, reengage a team, find your inspiration again, increase sales or launch a new product, a coach will help you get it done.

So, how do you choose the right coach for you?

At Padraig we recommend you talk to several coaches, to get a sense of their approach and personality. First though, you should ensure they are a certified coach. There are, regrettably many people who call themselves a coach who have neither the academic training, nor the certification. At Padraig all of our coaches have masters level education specifically in executive coaching, and all are certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF). Whether you work with us, or anyone else, we strongly encourage you to only work with a certified coach.

As you talk with a few certified coaches, we suggest you start by thinking about the kind of coach you want. Ask yourself whether you want a coach who will help you:

  • Brainstorm strategies;
  • Support, encourage and validate yourself;
  • Gain insight into who you are and your potential;
  • Paint a vision of what you can accomplish (and then get there);
  • Remain accountable to yourself, checking in on your goals;
  • Explore and remove blocks to your success; Identify or design action steps;
  • Work through self-improvement programs together;
  • Take 360˚ Assessments (what your peers and staff see), or
  • Something else?

Remember it’s OK to have more than one of these goals but it’s not OK to keep them to yourself! Share what you want with your prospective coach, and you’ll more likely find the right coach for you.

Next, ask your chosen few coaches about their experience. Have they had their own leadership experience? Have they worked with leaders at your level before? At Padraig some of our team have great experience working with senior level C-suite executives (and Deputy Ministers or Assistant Deputy Ministers in government) while others have tremendous experience working with new leaders who are starting their first role as a leader of people.

Ask a few more questions of the coaches:

  • Do they have a strong confidentiality policy?
  • Do they have other coaches who mentor them?
  • Do they have their own coach? (IE. Do they practice their own approach?)
  • Do they occasionally have their coaching audited to ensure they are doing their best?
  • Are they results oriented? Do they insist on identifying goals before beginning and then measuring progress against those goals?

You might also want to discuss whether the coach has experience in your field but we offer a caution on this one! Consider whether a coach without experience in your specific field might be a better thinking partner for you than someone who has “grown up in” your field. For example, we currently have numerous clients in the healthcare sector and several of our coaches are trained in “LEADS” (a leadership program that was created in Canada and has been implemented in healthcare organizations across the country), yet only one of our coaches has actually worked in healthcare. A number of our individual healthcare clients chose us specifically because we are able to bring a fresh perspective to their thinking, we can challenge them with different points of view and help them become more creative in their problem solving.

Next, be sure to ask for references. Good coaches will have current and previous clients who will be willing to share their experience with you so you can choose the right coach for you. Ask the references whether the coach digs in deep and gets to the root of struggles and challenges. Is the coach naturally talented in encouraging ideas and deeper thinking, or do they follow a scripted approach?

Ask about prices. Obviously, you want to be sure you can afford your coach. You should expect to pay $300 to $500 per hour (or $600 to $1000 per month) for a good leadership coach or executive coach. Many coaches will bill by the hour, some will bill by the month or by the contract. You should expect to see many times return on your investment.

Padraig Coaching & Consulting Inc. provides Executive Coaching and Leadership Coaching on a retainer basis, we do not charge by the hour. That means we don’t charge for each meeting but rather we charge a flat fee for a fixed period of time (for example a 6 month, 9 month or 12 month contract). During that time we will meet with you in person or by phone or videoconference for one-to-one coaching sessions once every two weeks, on average. If an extra session is required, that’s no problem — we don’t add to your billing — it’s all part of our retainer. In addition, you may contact your coach at any time during the retainer period, to ask follow up questions, seek “laser-focused coaching” for a few minutes by phone for a new issue, or to simply engage around a challenge. Again, it’s all included in our flat fee. We will often leave clients with questions to ponder between sessions, sometimes we might recommend a reading or a challenge. It’s all included in our fee. We don’t bill you for time here and time there. Our goal is to ensure you have the full support you need from your coach, with certainty up front on the cost.

Finally, ask for a short introduction to their coaching style. At Padraig we are happy to provide a complimentary 30 minute coaching session by phone to prospective clients. You won’t necessarily solve the world’s problems in half an hour, but you will get a good sense of the coach’s focus and their ability to help you zero-in on your goals and challenges.

So, what’s the coach’s question for today — the last day of 2013? We have two of them and they’re simply this — what do you want to achieve in 2014? And, what are you willing to do to get it?

Executive Coaches and Leadership Coaches help leaders see things from a new angle and increase their own success. If you are interested in how a Coach can help you think bigger, see things differently and find new routes to even greater success, give us a call toll free at (855) 818-0600. All six of our internationally certified executive coaches are happy to take inquiries and we offer a 30 minute complimentary, no obligation coaching session by telephone, if you want to try it out.

Click here to schedule your complimentary session.

Care to share your resolutions for 2014? Do you have some good questions to ask a prospective coach that have helped you select the best coach for you? Why not share them with us and our readers by commenting below!

Is perfection preventing progress?

Have you ever avoided doing something, because you figured you wouldn’t be good at it? Is perfection preventing progress?

For many years my mantra was “If I’m going to look bad doing it, I’m not going to do it.” That seemed to serve me well — I had a successful career, people admired my abilities and my confidence.

Unfortunately it also made me seem intimidating (people rarely saw me mess-up) and it made me uptight and it prevented me from finding joy in new things (which is one solid reason why I still have never tried downhill skiing)!

It seemed like a good mantra at the time, after all who wants to be seen doing something badly? It has only been in the last few years that I’ve come to realize the answer to that seemingly rhetorical question is — “people who accomplish great things.”

You may be familiar with Brené Brown — she was, until relatively recently, an unknown Ph.D. at the University of Houston studying shame and vulnerability. She is an engaging speaker who put herself out there, just a little bit, and gave a local TEDx talk in Houston about those two topics – vulnerability and shame.

She explained that her years of research had shown her very clearly that those who allow themselves to be vulnerable, those who don’t allow shame to hold them back are those same people who live whole heartedly.

They are the people who achieve things they didn’t know they could achieve, because they allowed themselves to try.

I’m paraphrasing here but essentially they didn’t seek perfection, they simply sought to try. They went for it. It was only after learning her own message, and coming to terms with it, that Brown shared her message in a tiny, regional, TEDx talk. That talk has become the fourth most watched Ted Talk of all time with nearly 12,000,000 views. That’s right twelve million.

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to check it out (the link is at the bottom of this message).

The reason I’m telling you this is because I suspect I’m not alone in allowing my desire for perfection to prevent me from achieving things. Sure, I increasingly try new things.

Some things I try are pretty big things – I started a business after 20 years as a public servant and one year ago today I incorporated that business and engaged five exceptional coaches to join me on this journey.

And some things I try are relatively small things – I respond to government proposals when that little voice inside my head tells me I’m not as good as the big guys, I walk into giant rooms at conferences and networking events, alone, and start meeting people.

But, there are still days where

Perfection Prevents Progress.

It took me six months of talking about it, before I hit “send” on the first of these blog e-mails. I was frozen, thinking, “what if people don’t appreciate what I have to say?”

I’ve spent the last four months “thinking about” a webinar series I’m planning to launch – but not quite doing it – because I worry it won’t be perfect, because I balk at allowing myself to be vulnerable and try something new.

You’ve probably heard someone ask, “If you could succeed at anything, what would you try?” I think that question is a cop-out. If I knew I would succeed, I would try everything! The question should be “even if you weren’t sure of success, what would you be willing to try?”

So our coaching questions for today are: “what are you putting off that could be worth trying, even if you might not succeed? What is preventing you from trying it?” and “What would it take to let go of your vulnerability and dive into it?”

Here’s the link to Brené’s TedTalk: CLICK HERE

At Padraig we use engaging, curiosity based questions in all of our coached programs.

If some of this resonated for you, I would LOVE to hear about it. Please share a few comments below.

Are your conversations Typical, or Courageous?

What is a Courageous Conversation?

We’re about to launch a series of workshops at Padraig that help our clients have Courageous Conversations. The idea is to help people have conversations that are open and honest, that solve disputes and challenges, that help us work better together, even when we have different perspectives or beliefs.

Today I share one of the concepts of those courageous conversations — focus on interests, not positions. In the classic book on negotiating “Getting to Yes,” the authors Fisher and Ury describe the difference in a position and an interest with two sisters fighting over the last orange. I’m going to use two chefs only because I found a photo to match!

So the story goes like this – two chefs are each preparing one course of a multi-course meal for a visiting dignitary.

Professional reputations are on the line and everything must be perfect. The chefs each reach for the last orange. The first chef says to the second chef “I need that orange for the duck I’m preparing as the main course!”

The second chef says “I need that orange for the amazing dessert I will be presenting!”

These positions are intractable – each chef needs the last orange.

In a “typical” conversation they might agree to cut the orange in half and each would be dissatisfied with the result – and likely resentful of the other. This could be the start of an ongoing grudge with the first chef presenting a less than perfect duck and the second presenting a less than perfect cake.

Now then, had the chefs had a courageous conversation they could have asked questions about their positions, to get to know each others’ interests.

They could have easily asked “why do you need the full orange for your recipe?”

Had they explored a question or two they might have learned that the first chef intended to juice the orange so that he could use the juice to make a wonderful sauce…and that the second chef needed a full orange worth of grated rind, to flavour her famous cake. In other words, they each needed the full orange but only for a key part of it — they could have both succeeded.

Their interests were different – one was interested in juice, one was interested in rind, but their positions – “I need the orange” were intractable. Moving beyond positions and attempting to define interests is a fundamental concept in many negotiations.

Asking questions to better understand the other person’s interests is a fundamental concept of coaching. We combine them in Courageous Conversations.

At Padraig we use engaging, curiosity based questions in all of our coached programs.

So our Coach’s Questions for you today — What conversations are you having that are stifled by positions where you might be able to look past positions and explore interests?  What would it take for you to try?

If you try a few courageous conversations, I would LOVE to hear how things went for you. Please share a few comments below.

Are you listening with the intent to respond?

What kind of listener are you?

Have you ever been having a debate with a colleague, perhaps even a heated debate around a boardroom table and you could just tell they weren’t listening to you? They were too busy deciding how they were going to respond when you stopped talking.

I’ve been there. No, no, I mean I’ve been that guy who isn’t listening.

Sure, I’ve been the frustrated debater on the other side too, but there surely have been times when I was desperate for a colleague to stop talking so I could refute their point and make my own point. I knew I was right and was impatient.

On more than one of those occasions, though, I happened to hear something they said that stopped me. Something that made me think, “Uh oh, I think they might be right” or “My point may be irrelevant.” So all of a sudden I had to start listening to what they were saying. I had to start considering their point of view, along with my own.

I’ve also done this when staff have come to me to describe a problem or challenge and I’ve been eager to jump in and answer them…to solve the problem for them.

Stephen R. Covey, the late management guru and the guy who launched the “7 Habits” series of books and seminars, once famously said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

In the last few years, I’ve been working on listening more and replying less. Of course as an Executive Coach I now spend a lot of my time listening, encouraging clients to think-out-loud while I provide an ear to listen and a sounding board for them to bounce ideas.

Have you ever been in that situation when you were listening with the intent to reply? What about when your staff are telling you about a problem. Have you wanted to jump in and respond before they even finished telling you what was wrong?

What might happen if you did the opposite? What if you listened with every bit of intention and presence you could muster. You focused solely on what the other person is saying. What if you took it a little step further and purposely didn’t respond to them right away once they stopped talking. What if you let their question or comment hang in the air . . . lingering a little while in silence.

Susan Scott, creator of a marvelous program called “Fierce Conversations” refers to this approach in a conversation as “letting the silence do the heavy lifting.” We often do this in coaching to allow the client time to process what they have just said, to listen to themselves, in fact. Often it is during this silent heavy lifting that the client answers their own questions, considers their own ideas and solves their own challenges.

Are you letting silence do the heavy lifting and listening with the intent to understand, or do you tend to listen with the intent to reply?

If you do more of the latter, I would encourage you to try it another way. See if it works for you. Maybe it won’t, we all have different styles, but based on what I’ve seen in my own life and now with clients, I’d encourage you to give it a go.

If you do, I would LOVE to hear how things went for you. Please share a few comments below.

When is “good enough,” Good Enough?

I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. I beat myself up when I don’t do things as well as I would like, and frankly there have been times where I’ve treated others around me that same way when things weren’t perfect.

I’ve done a lot of work on that, and occasionally my own executive coach and I continue to work on it!

What prompted me to start writing about it today is a quote from a textbook I once studied while becoming an executive coach. James Flaherty wrote in Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others:

The mood of organizations is, for the most part, shaped by the willingness of superiors to be satisfied.

That struck me as quite profound and incredibly accurate. What do you think? Have you known organizations with positive, upbeat, “can-do” moods? Perhaps you’re working in one now, or you volunteer somewhere like that.

Maybe you’re even leading that kind of organization. If you’ve witnessed it, I would encourage you to think about the leader — were they willing to be satisfied? Seems like an odd question but when you think about it, I suspect it has some logic to it.

Some of us have probably worked, at one time or another, in the other kind of organization — one where the mood was awkward, angry, or unhappy, challenging in-a-bad-way. Was the leader willing to be satisfied?

Now I’m not suggesting that sometimes we don’t need to strive for perfection.

When I’m traveling, for example, I like to think the pilot flying my plane, or the people at Boeing who built it, are aiming for perfection. But, how often is perfection necessary? When can we allow ourselves to be satisfied?

In his book, Flaherty also proposed “in our society and current culture, dissatisfaction is sometimes seen as a sign of sophistication or an unwillingness to compromise high standards.”

I’m sure that conjures up images for most of us — maybe someone you know, maybe you from time to time?

I’ve certainly had moments like that — unwilling to “compromise my standards” while pushing myself and others beyond our ability.

So I guess what I am asking is this…

When is good enough, good enough? How do you communicate that to your team? And what will it take for your colleagues to believe you? for your team to believe you? for you to believe you?

What if Your Team Members Were Volunteers?

In our last Coach’s Questions blog we talked about “Changing Other People” and that changing how we react to other people sometimes changes how they interact with us.

It’s the classic, if not ironic, reality that to change others we must change ourselves.

This time I’m proposing we take it a bit further — changing how we relate to our entire team – could it strengthen the whole team? Could it improve our corporate culture?

Imagine for a moment that your team (your staff, or your peers) are all unpaid volunteers.

They are doing what they do because they truly believe in the organization and its mission.

The hours they put in, whether longer than most, or shorter than some, are an unpaid labour of devotion. They aren’t here for the money.

Maybe they’re here to learn from you, or they’re here to build up some experience in your industry so that they can be really good at their role. And they chose to gain that experience, and contribute what they can contribute, to you and your organization.

Do you think that would that change how you interact with your team?

I’ve tried it, (and some of our clients have tried it), and here’s what I found: I had a little more patience with people who were trying to do their best but maybe weren’t yet meeting my perfectionist tendencies.

I had a bit more interest in sharing my own experience. I was less possessive of information and knowledge, and more willing to share it with those who wanted to learn.

I was a bit more engaged in learning what makes them tick. 

To emphasize what is perhaps obvious — they hadn’t changed, but I had consciously changed my mindset and it made work more enjoyable for me. I ended each day feeling that I had contributed more. I felt the workplace had become even more positive and engaging.

Regular readers of The Coach’s Questions probably won’t be surprised to hear that changes occurred in reverse, as well. Staff who had frustrated me before seemed to become stronger contributors, colleagues and I began to see eye-to-eye on problems that had challenged us previously.

As usual, it wasn’t a panacea. There were still challenges, there were still days I forgot to engage everyone as a loyal volunteer and there were days where my most diligent efforts were lost on others.

But overall, it moved me in a direction I was happy about, and it moved our organization the same way.

Coach’s Questions

What might change, for you and your team, if you tried this approach? Are there any significant risks?  I would leave you with this — are the potential gains greater than the risks? and is it worth trying? If you do, let me know how it works for you.

If you’re willing to share — please leave a comment or two below.

As I looked back on my own experience I realized that many of the traits I associated with volunteers were already a part of our team. I just needed to remind myself of that fact, and to bring that knowledge to work with me each day.

Taking a few moments to think about it, and then a few moments throughout the day to ensure I was implementing it strengthened me, and my team.

This has been a small example of how coaching helps leaders see things from a new angle and increase their own success.

One-on-one coaching and team coaching is focused on YOU.

Today’s topic may not address your obstacles or challenges, but working directly with a coach will allow you to work on what you want to work on, to make strides where you want to succeed.

If you are interested in how an Executive Coach and provocative questions can help you think bigger, see things differently and find new routes to even greater success, give us a call – toll free (855) 818-0600 x 101.

Changing Other People

Occasionally clients will tell me that some of the people in their lives frustrate them from time to time. They don’t like the way one of their staff does “this” or the way their boss handles “that” or the way a colleague “let’s this happen.”

Often these clients will ask me “how do I get them to change?”

The answer is a bit ironic.

First, it’s really hard, if not impossible to “get someone to change.”

Trying to change other people often results in frustration, anger, lines drawn in the sand and even bullying; and a lot more grief for both you and them.

The irony is that changing ourselves often results in changing other people.

Now before you start thinking “I’m not the one who needs to change!” – hear me out.

The one consistency when someone’s behaviour frustrates you, angers you, demotivates you, embarrasses you or diminishes you is… YOU. Their behaviour may be the cause, but how you respond is what is affecting YOU.

Our coaching clients often discover that they can change themselves – that is, they can change how they react to others. By first becoming aware of how we are reacting; and consciously adjusting that reaction, we often find the frustration/anger/resentment begin to disappear.

The amazing and ironic result – our clients often report back not only that they are feeling better and less burdened by others’ behaviours BUT the other person’s behaviours toward them have begun to change!

Now you might be thinking “Patrick, you told us we can’t change other people, now you say we can!” Well in fact, both are true. We changed ourselves and because of our new approach the other person has (consciously…or not) changed how they relate with us.

Coach’s Questions

Think for a moment about whether there is someone in your life you would like to change. Now think about how they make you feel. How would you rather feel? What can you do, yourself, to feel that way? What’s stopping you?

Try it out, let me know how it works for you. If you’re willing to share — please leave a comment below.

How to Handle Decision Making for Small Teams

Majority Rules? or Qualified Consensus?

In our last issue of The Coach’s Questions we talked about Decision Making.

How to help our teams develop strong options when making decisions.

Today I thought I’d talk a bit about decision making for small teams — whether that’s a management team you lead, a project team where you are a member, or even a volunteer committee you serve on.

What style of decision making do you like?

Do you prefer that the majority rule?

Do you prefer that the leader of the team listen to opinions and then make the decision on their own (often a form of majority rule)?

Do you expect consensus at all meetings?

In our “Accelerating Success” program for leaders who are starting in a new role we facilitate discussion on how decisions are going to be made by the leader and their new team.

Some very interesting research by Randall Peterson of the London Business School shows us that majority decision making, particularly in small groups of less than 10 people, can actually be detrimental because it leaves the minority unhappy and disaffected.

Peterson points out “they have nothing invested in success and often have something invested in failure.” Of course, we all know that full consensus decision making can be slow and may lead to a watered-down decision that no one loves.

At Padraig, we like Peterson’s model of “Qualified Consensus” which means finding a solution that is preferred for some and that everyone can live with, even if it isn’t the preferred solution for all.

This way everyone can remain committed to the decision and help with its success.

In working with our clients we challenge them not only to implement qualified consensus when appropriate, but also to take it a bit deeper with “a coach approach.”

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that a “coach approach” means asking insightful questions to get unexpected and previously unconsidered answers.

Specifically, we encourage our clients to be thought provokers by using insightful questions when working toward qualified consensus. If you’re not achieving consensus, ask questions like “what is it about X solution, Bob, that troubles you?

If we were to lean toward X solution, how would you modify it to make it suitable to you?” or you may ask questions about the group’s assumptions — “Carol, you mentioned option C will be too expensive. What are your assumptions about the costs? How would those costs limit our other work?”

In other words, we’re trying to drill down, get a deeper understanding of the concerns and disagreement out in the open so that everyone can respond and everyone can contemplate what is raised.

As the group shares more knowledge, assumptions, previously unspoken expectations they will often build a consensus around one direction — and will often gain enormous new understanding of each other, and each others’ roles, in the process.

Coach’s Questions

Think for a moment about the last team meeting you attended where decisions were made. Did everyone leave the room committed to the implementation? If your gut instinct says “no” what could you do next time so that you’ll be able to say yes?

How Do You Make Your Best Decisions?

The higher you climb up the corporate ladder, the more you will be receiving advice from other people — in order for you to make the tough decisions.

The challenge, often, is to make the decision based on the best information possible.

Some decisions come after significant preparatory work while some are spur of the moment.

One of our favourite techniques when coaching teams to think bigger, and that you can use with your team, is to ask the team to write a memo to you early in the process titled “Reasons Why You Would Say No to This Approach.”

Tell the team you will read the memo, only once they have come to you with their final recommendations.

In essence the team ends up having a conversation with themselves (and you) in the future, to challenge their own advice.

Executive coaches will often use a similar, though simpler technique with individual clients to spark some quick new thinking. “Imagine yourself a month (or a week, or a year) from now. Picture where you’ll be sitting, what you’ll be doing, who you’ll be talking to, what you’ll be saying to them.”

As we take a few moments and help them craft this imaginary future, our clients often begin to see where they want to be, and what they might need to do differently to get there.

Another decision making challenge we often witness is seeing things as “either-or.” Either we choose Option A, or we choose Option B. We rarely allow ourselves to consider blending the best of Option A with the best of Option B.

A great way to step outside that binary thinking is a technique we use with our coaching clients, and you could use with your team – ask your team to “tell me about your second-best choice, tell me why it is good.”

A simple, direct “coach approach” question like that will often lead to inspiring conversations about how we could use the best of that second-best option to make the best option even better.

Coach’s Question

How will you challenge yourself, and your team, to think broader and to consider all the best information when making decisions?