[Coaching Tips] “This Never Happens to Me”

Good business coaches use of host of tools and skills working with executives and teams: how they use those tools, and the robustness and effectiveness of the tools themselves is what separates coaches that are great and highly effective from those that are ho-hum and well, pretty ordinary.

One of those skills is the ability to see patterns of behavior where most might miss the connection between the dots, and to be able to use that insight to inform a host of suggested alternative approaches with a client.

I’m thinking about all these things as I watch my cell phone waiting for somebody I’ll call “Todd” to give me a call to be interviewed for 20 minutes about his boss. This is the 3rd time we’ve set up an appointment for the conversation: the first two times time – and call – slipped at his end, and if my hunch is right, today will be a third. Despite a couple of follow-up notes, I wasn’t able to get on his calendar until his bosses administrative assistant – his boss the EVP being my client – set us up at my request via Outlook.

In my 25+ years of working with folks the invariable line – when we connect – will be something like “this never happens to me” as Todd explains the missed appointments. He’ll be fooling himself. My take: it happens all the time. The number of times someone misses more than a couple of appointments I can count on one hand: my sense is that Todd is someone who struggles to make meetings, and perhaps other key parts of his job, on time: it is not usually a good recipe for career advancement.

If you can slow things down a bit and focus on what people do, not what they say, you can begin to see where the patterns of behavior line up. Listening to what people say can fool you. Many well intentioned people do things differently than what they say they do. Where the proverbial rubber meets the road, though, is what they do – not what they say.

What good coaches can do – whether it’s working with execs or teams – is call out those patterns of behavior. If those behaviors / actions work, the work is to affirm and sustain them. If they don’t work – and I’d suggest blowing off appointments with someone doing a piece of work for your boss – the work is to figure out different ways of working so that sort of behavior is reduced or eliminated since it’s not the type of thing that’s likely to promote your work, you, or your career.

He missed his call and I’ve asked for an assist from my client’s admin assistant to reschedule the phone session. We’re on for 8:30 AM Friday. We’ll see if it happens again.

Coaching Tips is an occasional set of writings focused on best practices in coaching and assessment: how do take what you observe, know what it means, and draw conclusions about what outcomes will occur in the future, and help clients make changes that will cause them to be more effective and successful. More about my work and coaching practice in the Hire Me link at the top of this page.