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Recipe for Success: ASK for What You Need

In a recent team building session, the participants said they really enjoyed learning more about their colleagues, but they also appreciated understanding themselves better and they really valued the opportunity to practice what I call the recipe for success – asking for what you need.

Accept Responsibility for Getting What You Need

Whether coaching an executive or working with a team, my message is the same:  learn what you need and ask for it.  It can be really hard for high achievers to admit that they need something from someone else, but no one succeeds in a vacuum and we can’t expect others to read our minds.

Specifics Help You Tell Others What You Need

Most people are willing to help their colleagues, and being specific makes that easier.  If you need more time to reflect on a complex issue and you are being pressured to make a decision quickly, you could explain, “I can give you an answer now or I can give you a better answer at noon tomorrow.”

Know What Contributes to Your Success

You may be a very team-oriented person who also needs to have your individual efforts recognized.  Your colleagues are probably not aware of this need because your usual behavior doesn’t give them a clue.  This makes it especially important for you to let your boss and key colleagues know that you are a lot more productive when you are able to measure and receive feedback on your performance.

Now that you have the recipe for success – whip up something good!

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Don’t Push Me!

My trainer kept saying, “Come on, you can do this!” even though I told him my foot wasn’t rehabbed enough for jumping.  The more he insisted, the more resistant I became.  I will push myself pretty hard, but not to the point of potentially doing damage.

How Much is Too Much?

Because he wasn’t getting it I questioned my own approach to pushing my coaching clients beyond their comfort zone. It is one of the toughest things I have to do, but discomfort is sometimes necessary to stimulate behavior change.

Stretch Without Breaking

Leaders also have to find the right balance when pushing their team members.  The best way to provide challenges that will stretch people without breaking them is to invest the time to learn:

  • What motivates the person
  • What de-motivates them

Where to Start?

A personality assessment like the Birkman is a great starting point, so let me know if you would like to explore how to add this to your leadership toolkit.

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That is So Stupid!

I’m Right, You’re Wrong

How many times a day do we think or say, “That is so stupid!”? The statement infers that we are smarter than someone else, that we are right and they are wrong.  That attitude makes it impossible to find common ground in conflict resolution.


Where is that Getting Us?

This issue came up with two of my clients recently so I challenged them to come up with a non-judgmental word to substitute for “stupid.”  It wasn’t easy letting go of that powerful feeling of being right, but they were each frustrated enough with the lack of progress in resolving their differences with colleagues that they agreed to work on it.


This is Smart!

The exercise enabled my clients to see things from the other person’s perspective, and that helped them move forward.  How about you?  Are you ready to try a new approach to achieving your objectives?  If so, I invite you to consider an issue from the perspective of someone with whom you disagree.  That’s not stupid; it’s smart!

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How do You Slice an Apple?

Have you ever stopped to consider how many things do you do without thinking?  I have always sliced an apple with the small end down, even though it tends to wobble.  Recently, my apple rolled over and I realized how much easier it is to slice it with the large end down.

Who Taught You?

I suppose my mother taught me to slice it that way and I never considered doing it differently.  When you think about the people who taught you about being a leader, who comes to mind?  What made the good ones effective and the bad ones hard to forget?  How did they shape your leadership style?

Is There a Better Way?

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith reminds us to ask, “How am I doing?” on a regular basis.  The answers tell us what we need to continue doing and what we need to reconsider.  Are there some things you have been doing so long that you no longer pay attention to whether they are effective?

Adding Too Much Value

Of the 20 habits Goldsmith lists in his book, one of the most common I see in my executive coaching clients is adding their two cents to every discussion.  Your team isn’t very likely to be motivated by a leader who says, “That’s a good idea but…”  If you wonder whether this is an issue for you, ask someone you trust.

Like the apple, I invite you to turn your leadership style upside down and see if you need to slice it differently.


What is Your Point of View?

How often do you hear people say, “I have to go to the gym” or “I have to go to my daughter’s game?” Doesn’t it sound like a burden when they put it that way? Ranks right up there with, “I have to go to the dentist.”

My clients are often concerned about how people will react to them working with a coach, especially if their company typically uses coaching only to address potential career derailing behaviors. Early in the coaching engagement, we explore how they plan to discuss this with their colleagues. I recommend that they use a positive, enthusiastic tone when they say, “I get to work with a coach to learn how I can be most effective.” Compare that statement to this one, spoken in an annoyed voice: “I’m not really sure why, but my boss said I have to work with a coach.” Which point of view do you think will lead to success?

If you know someone who has dealt with a health crisis, you have probably heard about the healing power of a positive point of view. I invite you to find out what happens when you change yours from “having to do something” to “getting to do something.”

You’ll hear from me again next month but right now I get to go to meet with my new client. You can reach me in the meantime at

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How Can You Get Others to Change?

Our topic at this month’s professional association meeting was change. Josh Freedman, an expert in using emotional intelligence for effective individual and organizational change, led a webinar on how coaches can transform organizations.  Interesting timing since I was talking to a client about change.  He was frustrated because he couldn’t get his boss or his peers to see things his way.  My client knew he was right but no one else seemed to get it.  He wanted to know how he could get them to change.

I asked him if he believed that in order for others to change you first have to change yourself.  After pondering the question for a few seconds, my client said, “Yes” with a knowing smile.  He realized that he would have to change his approach, but he complained that it wouldn’t be easy.  Probably not, but still easier than trying to get other people to change!

As Josh Freedman pointed out, it is the coach’s job to help people make the transition from resistance to engagement.  In order to do that, we have to help increase the client’s awareness within themselves, in relation to other people and in relation to their organization.  My question increased my client’s awareness of his need to change as well as his resistance to doing so.  He moved a few steps away from resisting to engaging in the idea that changing his behavior could lead to a more productive outcome.

Here are some questions to increase your awareness about the need for change:

  • What am I doing that isn’t working?
  • If I change one thing, what is the likely impact on my colleagues, my business, and/or my personal life?
  • If I don’t change anything, what is the likely impact?
  • What will it cost me to change that one thing?
  • What will it cost me if I don’t change it?

When you decide to change one thing, ask yourself:

  • What is keeping me from making this change?
  • What do I need to do to overcome my resistance?

The reality is that we can’t get others to change but, if we change ourselves, there’s a good chance they may change as well.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

If you would like to explore how coaching can increase your awareness and support you in making change, contact me at