Family business truths… second – it's all about communication

As my family and I continue along this amazing week, amazing journey that is the INSEAD Family Business Challenge, I am simultaneously more stimulated and more emotionally spent than I have been in quite some time. While yesterday’s focus was learning about birth order and what predispositions, what context, our birth order in the family gives each of us, today was about coaching and active listening. Here is what I learned today – and it sounds easy, but as our group breakouts and exercises indicated, it is much hard than it seems…

If the below seems unclear, head to the nearest bar and observe the bartenders. Indeed, the best coaches are bartenders (more than PhDs in psychology!), because they listen, since that’s how they get big tips. They usually don’t care about the specifics of the stories, they don’t know your obnoxious boss or your arrogant brother – so they don’t judge, instead they just nod and ask clarifying questions… 

What is coaching?

– The essence of good coaching is good listening

– Coaching is helping other people hear themselves.

– Coaching is helping someone develop / improve self-awareness.

What is coaching not?

– Coaching is not advice!

– Telling others how to do something better

– Sharing your knowledge and skills

3 coaching techniques

1. Build trust

– Show respect for the coacher’s feelings and thinking

– Help coachee explore new behaviors / thinking

– Create positive expectations and a sense of hope

– Commit to trust as the basis for the relationship

2. Use reflective questions and clean language

– Use the words of the person speaking when you answer back to them

– Do not judge or evaluate or approve any emotionally meaning statement

– Use non-violent communication: focus on facts; how it makes you feel (talk about yourself); express your needs to the other person without expecting anything because otherwise it becomes a demand

– Use clean language = neutral words such as:

“tell me more”

“how did that make you feel”

– Such language gives people space

– Realize that feelings are “facts” to the other person

3. Practice deeper listening

The stages of listening are as follows:

– Multitasking listening: not effective in terms of quality, does not help creativity, and destroys deep relationships

– Conversational listening: casual listening, appearing interested

– Confrontational listening: engaged but thinking of rebuttals and of your point of view

– Active listening: very focused on what the other person is saying

– Deep listening: outside of yourself, aware of both content and meaning, seeing and hearing with your 3rd ear

As we go through various exercises, we quickly realize that the trouble with communication is both assumptions, and interpretation.

We make assumptions about what others want; what they feel; what motivates them – we project ourselves on to them. And 99% of the time, we are wrong. Did we bother asking? No…

We also assume that the message we wanted to communicate was received accurately. Again, more often than not, that is not the case. There is what you want to say; then there is the way you express it (and sometimes you can’t express what you mean despite your best intentions); and then there is the way the person receives it – this is why it is so important to check assumptions and make sure that what you understood is what the person actually meant. In active listening, this involves rephrasing or asking clarifying/reflective questions. Just to make sure we understand what is being said… (or emailed, or texted…).

Teaching, learning, coaching…

I enjoy public speaking, and lucky for me get to do quite a bit of it. While I enjoy it, I still get incredibly nervous before stepping on the podium, walking up to the stage, or just getting up in front of people. Indeed, public speaking is one of our top three fears (right after drowning and dying by fire!). At least I am not alone in my nervousness…

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to learn about effective public speaking by listening to Lance Courtney of easihairpro and Inspiring Champions. More specifically, he focused on how to be an effective trainer – how to effectively teach. To set the stage, he starts by reminding us that “the goal of any training is measurable transformation.”

While my head is still spinning from all of the content he delivered in the span of two days, two of the key takeaways for me were his approach to the steps of teaching and tips on providing (and receiving) feedback.

When teaching someone, I have always been taught the Coaching model of: tell them, show them, show them again, and then let them show you a better way. Similarly, the teaching method that Lance discussed revolves around “tell them, show them, let them.”

–       Tell them: This is the teaching moment. Explain the process you are trying to teach. Remember to always ask for permission to educate. (But always remember, “telling is not teaching.”)

–       Show them: This is the opportunity to role play, to pair up and demonstrate.

–       Let them: We all learn best by doing. Let them experience what you have to teach them. Either bring up volunteers to the center of the classroom to demonstrate, or pair everyone in the audience (this is called “pair share”) so that everyone can perform the task at hand.

The additional steps involved are observation, redirection, and praise.

–       Observation happens both from one student to the next, and from the trainer. Lance reminded us to make this responsibility very important. “Give feedback like you are making commission on the progress your partner will make,” he urges. Alternately, if one person is demonstrating in front of the class, “Give everyone observing a real job to do,” he continues. “Let them know they need to pay attention because they are going to be doing it next.” The doing and the observing are equally important.

–       When observing, if there is a need to correct, or more nicely put, “redirect,” always “ask for permission to coach or redirect,” Lance says. When redirecting, always use the Socratic method and ask the student what he / she is seeing. Don’t say “you are doing this wrong,” rather, get the student to reach his/her own conclusion about what could be done better, and why it matters (never forget the why). Give the student the opportunity to recognize what could be done better himself / herself.

–       Always include praise in redirection. The goal is to give feedback in a way that leaves the student bigger. Lance reminded us to “CCC”: compliment (something they are doing correctly), critique (involve the student to identify what can be done better), and compliment again (the process of the student doing the task at hand better).

Lance also reminded us that if we are on the receiving end of CCC (aka critique, redirection, coaching, feedback), there are only three things to say:

  1. Thank you.
  2. Tell me more.
  3. Can you please repeat that.

“Remember,” he adds, “it’s not failure, it’s just feedback.”