Micro-coaching and your success

We had (and I use the verb tense intentionally) a restaurant near our office a couple of years ago where my colleague and I were going to go for lunch. We saw a sign on the closed door that read something along the lines of, “Now closed at lunch”. When we made inquiries later about this “strategy” they said that they didn’t have a sufficient number of people coming in for lunch to warrant the expense of opening up. Needless to say a short time later they weren’t open for supper, either.

Why do I mention this? Well a number of people in companies that formerly had done a significant amount of training and development have now stopped training altogether unless they have the express approval of a senior executive.

Of course, many, if not all these organizations have had to lay people off, so it appears that they are worried about the optics of doing training and development for the people who are left. This approach sends a clear message that the people who have made this decision clearly see training and development as a frill, something that is nice to have, but not really critical.

It is a short term view that ignores a very basic reality. This recession will end! (remember the bumper stickers in the early 80’s that read “Please God let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss this one away”.) Well, there was (and of course, we never learn from history), and the lesson that should have been crystal clear to organizations was that the number of supposedly valuable staff who stayed after the recovery depended on how they were treated during the recovery period.

How are you letting your people know that you value them and their contribution to the organization? Or is the fact that they haven’t been ushered out the front door, accompanied by security guards, proof sufficient?

A cash bonus is tricky because it is risky to give a bonus to one person but not to another – especially if there is no discernable difference in performance. And let’s be honest here – in this age of focus on teamwork and collaboration, how do you distinguish the efforts and contributions of a team versus that of an individual within the team? One of the biggest challenges I faced when teaching at University was assigning a group project. Invariably groups were unhappy because they all received the same mark but there were always one or two that did not pull their weight.

So, if bonuses are out, and the regular training and development programs are out, what can you suggest to managers as a developmental tool that will demonstrate the company’s commitment to those they want to retain?

Let me suggest “Micro-Coaching”.

Behaviour drives self-concept and self-concept drives behaviour. This can be either a vicious circle or else a virtuous circle. If we see ourselves as kind, then we probably behave in a kind and thoughtful way toward others, which reinforces our opinion of ourselves as kind.

This notion has led me to the idea of something I refer to as “micro-coaching”. All of us have heard of business coaching, of course, where a person with sufficient training and experience in the business world works with people who wish to improve some aspect of their business life. Many people have found this process absolutely invaluable for their own development, but (and there always is a “but” isn’t there) it is expensive, time consuming, and in these days of economic uncertainty and cutbacks, very few companies think this is a good time to fund personal development.

They are wrong, in the same way that a business is wrong when it says, “Business is terrible. Sales are down. We need to get rid of 20% of our sales force”.

This is exactly the right time to focus on improving your actions (and self-concept) in order to not only stay employed, but to advance in your career. Micro-coaching is a process that will let you focus on what you really need to focus on in order to develop yourself and your career. The process is based on the theory of cognitive dissonance proposed by Leon Festinger who believed that people have an inner need to ensure that their beliefs and behaviors are consistent. Inconsistent or conflicting beliefs leads to disharmony, which people strive to avoid.

The program begins by focusing on an area where there is no pre-existing dissonance: that is, on one positive quality that you have, and translating that into a demonstrable activity every single day for 30 days, and submitting a short description of what you have done to illustrate it, to your coach. If you believe you are a kind person for example, you will find it relatively easy to do one kind thing a day, and to quickly message me about the action you have performed.

Micro-coaching involves establishing habits that are performed consistently – habits that result in desired outcomes and receiving feedback on your performance. It will help you make the transition from wanting to do something to actually doing what you say you want to do in a way that is consistent with your self-concept. And how do we change our self-concept about those things which we believe our faults? By doing small things, daily, that are inconsistent with the negative.

After two months have passed with your working on developing those habits consistent with your self-concept, phase two is ready to begin. Phase two begins by looking at one quality you believe is lacking, or a negative behaviour you would like to correct. You would identify one or two behaviours that would be incompatible with the negative action. Let’s say that you have a bad habit of interrupting, jumping in before another person is finished talking. We would begin by forming a re-framing statement that would be incompatible with interrupting, perhaps, “I am a good listener and I can wait until I hear the whole story”. Every time you get into a discussion with another person you would say this to yourself. At the end of the day, you would message me, and let me know how many times you were able to remember this and not interrupt others. By the end of 30 days, you will have either quit saying that to yourself, OR, you will have significantly cut down on the number of times you interrupt others, resulting in the new behaviour(s).

The value in this type of program is that it can be done entirely via email or text messaging, does not require travel to and from the coach’s office, is focused completely on demonstrable behaviours so that people can track what they do (or don’t do), and is offered at a reasonable cost.

Want to test it out for yourself? For an introductory price of $500.00 for a 4 month program, I will take you through the process and you can judge for yourself the value. Even if you are not in a position where it is your responsibility to plan training for staff, this is a great opportunity to invest in yourself for the future. Don’t you think you’re worth it?

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