Management Assessments Information

Executive Coaching Useful Tips

Executive Coaching Programs Tools

Executive Coach Best Practices

Executive Coaching News

My Executive Coach

Go Deep, Be Courageous, Emerge a Winner!

Serving the Business and Professional Community since 1983! 

N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.

Home Coaching Session Options ProStar Coach 24/7 Online Coaching Self Assessments 360 Feedback Talent Management Rapid Results Alternative Techniques Training Resources Small Business Survey Tools Meet Our Executive Coaching Team About Us Blog Books Contact Us

The Executive Coaching Corner:  Now in Session

July 23, 2013: Executive Coaching Can Be a Walk in the Park!

In my last blog, I shared the story about  Alan, who unwittingly suffered a brain injury and is now successfully recovering.  His primary treatment included neurofeedback training and some supplements along with meditation and increased cardio activity to speed the healing of his brain.  To show my support,  I purchased some meditation CDs for him and we made a commitment to two, 15-minute daily practices and be accountability partners for each other.  Each time we met, we discussed our respective progress.  After he updated me on his training and meditation I asked him how his cardio exercise was going...

Alan

Not so great.

Elizabeth

Why’s that?

Alan

Lazy for one.  I know it’s important, but I need some kind of goal to motivate me.

Elizabeth

What type of goal would motivate you?

Alan

Well, last week  a friend of mine and I were talking about hiking one of the national parks in this fall.  I think that would really be fun, but I can't do it without training and preparation.  

Elizabeth So if you agree to go, do you think that could be your goal?
Alan I haven't told him I would yet... but as I think about it, I would really like to go and it would be a perfect goal.

Elizabeth

Okay, so now that you have a potential goal, are there any obstacles that would get in the way from working toward that goal?  Last week we discussed that you would try to take walks during lunch time.  Is that still doable?

Alan

Well, I thought that was an option, but in reality we usually have management lunch meetings about two or three times a week.  Everyone around here is so busy, that lunch seems to be the only time the senior team can get together.

Elizabeth

Hmmmm….

Alan

What?

Elizabeth

Would you consider walking with me during our coaching sessions?  I’d be willing to do that for you.  It might be a challenge taking notes, but I’m certainly willing to try.  You’d be doing me a favor actually.  I could use the extra exercise!

Alan

Sure!  Let’s try it.

The following week, I picked Alan up and we drove to a nearby lagoon trail.  I had a steno pad  and my email outlining his action items in hand, and away we went.  We were soon going at about a 3.5 mph clip which enabled us to still talk without being too out of breath.  We kept this up for nearly an hour.   I was surprised that we were able to cover everything on our list, and for some reason it seemed more efficient than our regular sessions.  I am not sure why.  The only hang up I had was that when he asked me a deeper question, I found it hard to walk and think.  From a brain-based perspective, I understood why:  It involved multi-tasking, so the executive part of my brain (pre-frontal cortex) couldn't fully focus.  I seemed to do fine as long as the questions weren’t too deep.  I found myself wanting to stop and pause when the questions were more penetrating but didn't want to break our pace.  I also found that note taking was tricky, just because I was in moving and my handwriting got a little screwy.  However, when I returned to the office, I managed to shoot off an email summarizing our meeting with no problem.  The following week, we weren't able  to walk for our next session due to scheduling conflicts.  So, as we sat in his office, I asked for feedback. 

Elizabeth

So how did you like our walking session last week?  Did you feel we covered everything you wanted?

Alan

Yes.  I was really surprised at how much we covered.  I really liked it.  I felt energized and I was surprised at how focused we were.  And, we even  got a few good laughs in.

Elizabeth

Great.  I'm so glad!  However, we still need to find a way for you to  maintain regular cardio activity.  Your doc wants you to do this several times a week.  Since you can’t do walks over your lunch hour and you need to get more walks in, what are your options?

Alan

I'm not sure.....

Elizabeth Who else could you schedule walking meetings with besides me?
Alan Hmmmm.....maybe schedule my weekly one-on-ones  with my staff as a walking meeting… but  I don’t know how they would feel about that.  No one has ever done that before around here.  What do I tell them?

Elizabeth

Do you have any problem with the truth?

Alan

Well, the truth is my doc wants me to do this for my health, and I plan to go on a vacation hike in one of the national parks and need to train for it.  So I could tell them I need their help and ask if they would be willing.

Elizabeth

Sounds reasonable to me.

Alan

I guess I could tell them and let them decide if they want to do it.  I'd make it optional

Elizabeth

When you position this as needing their help, I think you will be surprised at how positively they will respond.  Let me know next week how it goes.

Alan informed me by email that he had scheduled two walking meetings for the following week.  When we met at my office for his next session (I had accidentally stepped  on a piece of glass while barefoot in my kitchen, so walking was out that week for me), I asked him how it went.  He was quite animated and excited.

Alan

My staff is totally jazzed by the idea!  They are a bunch of young guys and they just love getting out of the office and turning it into something fun. All but one have jumped right on this.  And I don't know if he doesn't want to or is just thinking about it and hasn't gotten back to me.

Elizabeth

Well, you'll know soon enough about him.  I am glad, however, that you are getting a strong response.  Now...could you tell me more in terms of what you accomplished during the two walks you've done so far?

Alan

I practiced asking more questions as I was coaching them.  It was hard for me, but it worked.  I found I had to lead them a little...but they did pretty good.  I just need more practice.   It certainly does take longer to go the "questioning route."

Elizabeth Yes, initially it does.  But remember, you are helping them to develop to be better thinkers.  Eventually, they'll need less guidance from you.
Alan The only problem I had was note taking to list new action items.  That’s tough to do while walking… but I was telling my boss about this dilemma and he suggested I consider an APP on my I-Phone that lets me record my voice and it transcribes it into text for me.  So I’ve got that covered now.

Elizabeth

Very good fix!   So do you think you are going to continue with your walking meetings?

Alan

Yes.  And what I really like is that I’m the only guy in the office who does this...I feel like I'm the cool guy now. It's creating sort of a buzz.  I know that one of my 360 goals was to gain more visibility throughout the organization.  I never expected it to happen this way, but I'll take it!

Elizabeth

So how does it feel to be a leadership trendsetter in the office?

Alan

He flashed a big grin and said…it feels great.  But, what I also like is that it refreshes me.  I have tended to get a little sluggish after lunch.  This perks me back up.  So a 2 or 3 PM walk is great.

Elizabeth

Well, time will tell if this is just a novelty or will become a part of the culture.  Okay, Mr. Trendsetter... what else is on your mind that you would like us to discuss for the remainder of the session?

 

Key Points: 

As we get busier and busier, we have tended to become a group of multi-taskers.  We think this is necessary to keep pace.  Multi-tasking is okay when doing routine things like chatting on the phone with a friend about mundane things while vacuuming or doing the dishes.  Another common example is  having a simple conversation with one of your passengers while driving in normal traffic.  However, what would happen to your conversation if you suddenly heard sirens and saw the flashing lights of a fire truck and police cars  in your rear view mirror?  I'd lay you odds, that your conversation would come to a halt so you could fully concentrate on being safe.  Why?  Neuroscience research shows that you can only concentrate on one thing at a time, particularly  if one of those items is complex.  I experienced this with Alan when we were walking.  I couldn't think about his deeper questions while I was walking and talking to him.  I wanted to stop.  As a matter of fact, I just told him that I needed to give more thought to his question and would discuss it later

A workplace example that happens routinely is when people start answering emails while they are in a meeting.  One of two things will usually happen.  They will either make typos in their emails and potentially leave out critical information if they are trying to write while listening to the speaker, or they will miss parts of what is being said in the meeting.  This is the harsh reality.  So focus on what's important and give it your full attention.  Multi-tasking is not what its cracked up to be and could create more damage than benefit. Texting and driving is an example with tragic consequences.

For additional one to two-minute sessions on other topics,  go to the Executive Coaching Corner Archive.