The Question Matters


Changes with Every Generation

Posted in Change,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on August 10, 2010
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The debate about the uniqueness of each generation will always be lively, in part because the points of debate say at least as much about the person making the argument as they do about the generation for which they stand.  Dynamics between generations are more complex that simply the date on which I was born and the broad trends evident in people born roughly the same time as me.  I prefer to think of generational change as resting more in a gradual shift rather than a sudden change in course.

I’ve been reading Tim Elmore lately, and following his tweets (@TimElmore).  He’s the founder and president of Growing Leaders, a NFP created to develop emerging leaders, especially those in the latter half of Generation Y, born 1990 or later.  His focus on the latter half of Generation Y resonates with my take on generational dynamics.  Rather than speaking for a 20-25 year window of people, he’s narrowed his focus to a ten-year window.

He posted this yesterday.  Occasionally, the observation is made that every generation has issues with previous generations, and that today’s newcomers to the workforce and to culture are simply experiencing the same growing pains.  Tim gives a qualified “yes,” listing these trends that make each generation’s changes a little different. I recommend reading his entire article, entitled Changes with Every Generation.

Which of these trends are you sensing the most?

1. With each new generation, time becomes more valuable.

2. With each new generation, expectations of convenience and service rise.

3. With each new generation, the demand for work to have meaning intensifies.

4. With each new generation, the hunger for options grows.

5. With each new generation, the sense of entitlement increases.

6. With each new generation, the need for speed and space goes up.

7. With each new generation, the desire for customization expands.

John Maxwell on Questions

Posted in Change,Coaching,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on August 2, 2010
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You can’t find the right answer if you’re asking the wrong question | John Maxwell on Leadership.

A quote from the blog post:

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.”

~Sir Antony Jay

Dan Pink on Motivation

I came across this video on a blog feed early this week.  Dan’s focus is on the problems of a purely “carrot and stick” style of motivation and performance enhancement.  Science simply doesn’t bear that out. In fact, he says, the 21st century workplace has a lot to do with this misunderstanding. The digital age has automated and outsourced many of the simpler tasks of our workplace. Innovative companies desiring to keep pace with the speed of change must maximize creativity. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are far greater motivators.

In my opinion, these three are key elements for a Gen X and Gen Y workplace.  Here’s the video.  (If you’ve got $60 I can “borrow” for the video upgrade on WordPress, let me know.)

(If you’re in a hurry, watch from 3:00 to about 7:45. If you’ve got a few minutes, watch the 18 minute video.)

Myths about Coaching, Part 2

Posted in Coaching,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on July 23, 2010

Again, many thanks to Sheila Boysen-Rotelli for responding to some of the myths about coaching that are out there.  Part 1 was posted a few days ago. Sheila owns Professional Success Coaching.  Professional Success Coaching provides coaching to individuals and organizations that are looking to grow to the next level and achieve their desired results.

This time, I’d like to invite you to post a comment to this blog post, answering the question, “Which of these myths provided a new insight for me into coaching?”

Myth: People have a set of personality traits that are relatively unchangeable and so coaching must be limited in terms of helping people to change their behavior.

Reality: There are mixed studies on the extent that person’s personality can be changed. However, coaching can enable people to adopt different ways of thinking that in turn empowers them to make positive behavioral changes.

Myth: Coaching takes up too much time to be worthwhile.

Reality: An effective and successful coaching program can be conducted over the phone and can involve an average amount of three sessions per month, each lasting 30-40 minutes. This type of program can be tailored to fit in with a person’s busy lifestyle.

Myth: There doesn’t seem to be a clear definition of what coaching is.

Reality: There are numerous of explanations about and definitions of what Professional Coaching is. My personal favorite is the following definition that has been produced by the International Coaching Federation (ICF): “Coaching is an ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance and enhance their quality of life.”

Myth: Successful people don’t need coaching.

Reality: Testimonials show over and over again that successful people will actually increase their success by hiring a Professional Coach.

Don’t forget to post your comments about the myths you had that were dispelled!

Myths about Coaching, Part 1

Posted in Coaching,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on July 20, 2010

Connecting with highly competent and skilled individuals is one of the great things about being in a 37-member cohort for professionals learning how to coach leaders.

Sheila Boysen-Rotelli is a classmate from greater Chicago.  (Ever been to the western suburbs of Chicago?  Beautiful.)  Professionally, she is leading Leadership Development and Corporate recruitment at McMaster-Car Supply Company in the Chicago land area.  She also owns Professional Success Coaching.  Professional Success Coaching provides coaching to individuals and organizations that are looking to grow to the next level and achieve their desired results.

Sheila has written an article in two parts about the myths of coaching.  This succinct view of coaching will be helpful to those of you who are considering coaching, or know someone who is.

Myth: Coaching is for mediocre performers

Reality: Coaching is NOT for mediocre performers. The same reasons why they perform at a mediocre level (late for meetings, consistently unprepared, lack of passion, etc.) in their careers are the same reasons why they would not deliver a strong return on investment with a coach. Professional Coaching is for top performers who want something more in their life (better balance, a bigger title, larger salary, more responsibility, higher level of effectiveness as a leader or presenter, etc.) and want to work with a person outside of the organization to assist them in getting there.

Myth: Coaching is essentially like mentoring, in which clients are provided with advice.

Reality: Coaching does not primarily involve giving advice. Rather, it raises individual’s awareness of their own abilities and capabilities and is based on the assumption that people are naturally resourceful, creative and capable of achieving better results.

Myth: Professional coaching does not produce results.

Reality: Professional Coaching is about getting results! The process of coaching involves goal setting and becoming accountable to the coach as well as to themselves in planning and implementing specific courses of action that lead to the achievement of their desired outcomes.

Myth: The coaching profession is unregulated so there is no way to assess the competencies of a coach.

Reality: Despite the fact that the coaching profession is currently unregulated there are a number of questions that can be and should be explored to assess the competencies of a coach. For example:

  • What are the coach’s qualifications and Certifications as well as what kind of experience and professional background does the coach possess?
  • Would the coach be able to identify a clinical issue and in turn know when to refer a client to a therapist if necessary?
  • Does the coach subscribe to a professional code of conduct (i.e. the International Coaching Federation Code of Conduct)?

Thanks to Sheila for sharing her thoughts on coaching.  Part two coming in a couple of days.  Don’t forget to check out her website!

Coaching in the Wild

Posted in Coaching in the Wild by treyfinley1008 on June 28, 2010
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I’ve taken a break from blogging recently.  Some of this was self-imposed.  Inspiration was lacking, and my content felt redundant.  Other reasons included a dramatic change in my work schedule.  What used to be my scheduled time devoted to writing is no longer available.  I must make a new scheduled time!  A bigger reason than these two is the opportunity to let what I believe will be my first publication simmer and ferment.  For the foreseeable future, I’m going to post my thoughts and ideas on the subject of Coaching in the Wild.

There is something unpredictable and mysterious about coaching.  I know, I know.  I’ve spent valuable time blogging about how coaching is scientifically validated with any number of anecdotal success stories.  Nevertheless, the science and the skills are means to an end, not an end unto themselves.  Coaching is an adventurous exploration down a path which is sometimes poorly marked, curves back on itself, and is occasionally blocked.  This exploration can be a means unto itself.  Walking the path side by side with another is reason enough to pursue coaching.  However, there is the potential for more.

At its heart, my thought is this:  coaching is a hunt for the soul.

First question:  If coaching is a hunt for the soul, what exactly are we hunting?  Parker Palmer is an educator whose book The Courage to Teach greatly impacted my journey.  Palmer, a deeply spiritual man with a more mystical view of Christianity, uses the metaphor of a wild animal to describe the soul in a recent lecture:

I think the human soul is very much like a wild animal, and by that I mean two things. On the one hand, the soul is tough, resilient, and resourceful; it knows how to survive in hard places where no other part of us knows how to survive…But, exactly like a wild animal, this tough resilient, resourceful soul is also essentially shy. And we know that if we want to see a wild animal the last thing we should do is go crashing into the woods screaming for it to come out. We know that under those conditions we will simply scare away the thing we seek, this shy thing we seek. We do know, however, that if we walk into the woods quietly and if we will sit at the base of a tree and breathe with each other, breathe with the Earth for an hour or two, we may eventually catch a glimpse of that wild creature that we seek. We may catch it only out of the corner of our eye, but we will never forget the sight and the sight will be an end in itself.

What do you think about this definition of the soul?

Trey Finley, Gleek Extraordinaire

I’m hooked. I’m a Gleek.

“Glee” performs the music of my generation.  For some in Generation X, it’s the music of their high school and college years.  For me, it’s the music of my elementary and junior high years.  Either way, it’s a blast from the past.

The cast of Glee is good.  Really good.  I get chills when I hear Rachel Berry and her mom (played by Idina Menzel, who was part of the original cast of Wicked) sing together.  It blows me away that Cory Monteith–the actor who plays lead singer Finn Hudson–is singing for just about the first time in his life.  Sue Sylvester, the coach of the cheerleader team, has to be the funniest character on TV.  I’d tune in just to watch her banter with Mr. Shuester.

Lest you think the show is pure cheese, there’s a character who’s gay and struggling to relate to his father.  There’s the teacher with a Downs’ Syndrome sister who spends her free time caring for her.  There’s a paraplegic who performs on stage with the other students, but dreams to be free of the wheelchair.  There’s a character who gets pregnant and a character who says “no” when pressured to have sex.  And there’s the glee club diva turned cheerleader (then back to glee club diva) who struggles with her self-image, especially her weight.

Glee, like Generation X, dares you to accuse it of being shallow.  In a recent review of the show by the Los Angeles Times, their TV critic had this to say:

“Glee” is, in many ways, a very modern show, addressing topics usually reserved for serious drama — teen pregnancy, a father coming to terms with his gay son — in what is essentially a musical comedy that more than occasionally borders on camp. Over and over again, the message is: Don’t judge.

Listening for What You Didn’t Hear

Posted in Coaching,Family,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on June 14, 2010
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When I get up in the morning, there are certain sounds I’ve become accustomed to hearing.  I usually hear my basset hound beginning to stir.  She yawns as she stretches, shakes, and then meanders slowly to another part of the room to lay down, her collar jingling all the way.  I hear the fans.  Their whooooosh as they circulate cool air is like a soundtrack to our lives.  A few of them need balancing, and as such I occasionally hear the cords that change fan speeds and turn the lights off and on let out a soft click as they lightly knock heads.  And of course, I hear the tap tap tap as I type away at my keyboard.

That is not a long list.  There are not many sounds to be heard at 6:30 in the morning at our house, one of the reasons I enjoy writing at this time of day.  Hearing noise, though, does not mean that I’m listening.

Listening notices more details. If I listen to the fan, I may notice that it is running at a different speed that usual, thus softening the whooosh sound it makes.  If I listen to my basset hound, I might also hear her groan a bit more than usual in her yawn, letting me know she needs the supplement we give her that keeps her long back and short legs limber.

Listening requires a recognition of what I’m not hearing. What isn’t making noise today that often is?  For a change, my 5-year-old is still asleep.  Often, I can hear him playing in his room when I wake up to write.

Listening is hearing what others are not. Listening is more than hearing sound and words.  Listening identifies, marks, and contemplates the rhythm at which someone speaks. It evokes thoughtful comparison of the pace and tone in someone’s voice.  It provides clues to how that person sees the world.

Listening calls for action. Listening is not passive.  For the coach, careful listening provides the basis from which powerful questions emerge.  For the parent, listening provides solid ground from which to guide a child.  It serves notice of good habits and bad, words that build up and those that tear down, social patterns that are serving them well and those that aren’t.

In short, Listening is to Hearing as Leading is to Managing.

Getting My Arms Around Entrepreneurship

Posted in Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on June 9, 2010

5:52 a.m.

That’s about when this blog post started rolling around in my head–a solid half hour before I wanted to be conscious of anything other than my dreams.  Truthfully, it’s not all that unusual for me to wake up 30-45 minutes before my alarm goes off, thinking of what needs to be done in the course of the day.  My mind is trying to get its proverbial arms around my day, my work, and my life.  Some mornings that begins earlier than others.

Like the man in this picture, the circumference of my world is growing, and my arms feel inadequate to the task of getting the leverage I need to hold it securely.

6:34 a.m.

I’m 20 minutes into writing this blog post, and it’s beginning to feel a bit whiny.  There are some very positive reasons why the circumference of my entrepreneurial world is growing.  I signed a contract yesterday with a training and organizational development company.  Alongside another coach, our efforts to take coaching into our denomination and to churches in general have taken large steps forward in the last ten days.  These are the culmination of my marketing, my networking, and my cultivation of relationships.  Through the hundreds of conversations I’ve had, I’ve cast seed far and wide, not knowing whether they would land on fertile soil and produce opportunities for me to be who I’m created to be.  These opportunities are answers to prayers.

As I’ve been writing this blog, another ball metaphor comes to mind.  When I was playing high school basketball, we would work on increasing our upper body strength–arms, shoulders, and core muscles–by throwing this:

Recognize it?  It’s a medicine ball, roughly 25 pounds and about the same size as a basketball.  Using only our arms and hands, we would throw these 25 pound monsters to a teammate who would stand further and further away as the exercise continued.  Back and forth, the balls would go, until our shoulders and forearms ached.

Grasping the exercise ball is a futile attempt.  My arms are simply not big enough to get there.  As a medicine ball, on the other hand, my entrepreneurial hopes are heavier still.  They will test my strength, at times outweighing what strength is left in my arms.  Like the 15-year-old basketball player throwing it cross court, they will occasionally land off target.  There will be moments, just like that drill from twenty years ago, when I loathe that ball.

But at least I’ll be able to get my arms around it.

Are Generational Descriptions Nothing More than Labeling?

Posted in Career,Coaching,Generation X,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on June 7, 2010
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Getting back on the blogging horse this week, having been bucked off by what was actually a very encouraging week in my coaching business world.  I’ll start nice and easy with this warning: caution should be used when applying generational descriptions.

Bucking Myths about Gen Y in the Workplace.  If you’re supervising someone under the age of 30, here’s a quick read on some common misconceptions about employees under the age of 30.  Gen X supervisors–this article is an invitation to pursue coaching skills.

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same.  It’s a long read, but here’s a nugget from the middle that’s important to remember when you’re exasperated by someone under 30–chances are, someone said similar things about you when you were under 30.  Both this article and another by Neil Howe discuss whether Gen Y is less empathetic than other generations.  My two cents–the results of these studies don’t jive with my experiences with middle school, high school, and college students.

Labeling Can Do More Harm than Good. Here’s a cautionary post from a Gen Y writer about the dangers of trying to label an individual with a generation’s traits.  The author overstates his case, in my opinion. However, if someone had preconceived notions of who I am as a Gen X member (aloof, jaded, latch-key, etc.) and made decisions affecting my life based on those preconceived notions, I might respond in a similar way.  There’s a line between generational descriptions and labeling members of a generation.

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