Research Paper By Anne Lise Saint Gerand
(Business Coach, GERMANY)
Rien ne se perd, rien ne se crée, tout se transforme:
Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. Lavoisier
This research paper is intended to look at how ICA learnings transformed my understanding of management (doing the things right) and leadership (doing the right thing) and how I experimented in my actual work with some of the learnings in ICA. Today I was in class and the mentor asked us: can you feel the positive energy in our class? The overarching challenge we face with ourselves, in our environment, with our teams, with our clients is indeed to fill the space with positive energy…
“Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed is a sentence attributed (in France) to an 18th-century chemist Lavoisier about matter transformation. In intrinsic motivations at work, Kenneth W. THOMAS summarized and visualized a similar notion of energy flow/cycle in a working environment:
“Leading for engagement is the very core of managing. To lead for engagement is to enable people to self-manage but also to seek and amplify the evidence of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress that keep them engaged”
(extracted from Thomas KW: intrinsic motivation at work)
It all started with a gift from my former boss in a yearly performance evaluation. He wrote “You are an excellent mentor and coach of your team| … I was not sure what exactly he meant with these two words mentor and coach. I decided to explore them. How does it look like to coach a team with a better knowledge of what coaching is? I joined ICA… and the journey began… a life long journey I would bet!
N.B.: When I started writing this research paper, a time of uncertainty and change meant that we were in an integration period at work. I am now editing it during the coronavirus confinement… how fortunate am I to have chosen this theme that is so helpful right now to survive this unprecedented challenge!
This research paper looks at:
- The several awareness generated during my ICA course
- What I learned about energy, emotions, motivation, purpose, and trust.
- How I translated these learnings into actions as a manager/coach in a corporate environment in times of uncertainty and change.
It all starts with oneself…:self-management/self-care
The building block to sailing through uncertainty and change is managing oneself, managing one’s energy (and not one’s time) to be able to build self-confidence to create a safe space.
Several ICA modules, self-management, responding vs reacting, and accountability is in the center of this critical aspect.
The first awareness for me during this time was the necessity to test first on myself, to fully experience, understand, and comprehend what worked before suggesting to a client activity with his permission.
As a self-application, I started to reflect on recognizing my energy level during the day. I am a morning person and everything is simple… in the morning. I decided to test how I could capitalize on the morning flow of energy and extend it into the day to land in a good place at the end of the day!
It led me to several small changes in my self-discipline: I started with my “plant meditation”(meditation in front of my favorite plants, a living presence) very early in the morning to state my intention. I then was walking at least thirty minutes to concentrate, and focus on two things I wanted to complete before my working/meeting day started. I changed my breakfast time to around ten o’clock, ate lunch on time at noon. I took the habit to center myself with some breathing exercises before any important event of the day, and certainly before each coaching activity. I also always made sure to complete one thing for myself (however small) by the end of the day and remember it before sleeping to acknowledge myself.
Confinement compelled a re-engineering of this carefully crafted routine. I looked at my electronic calendar and coded in green meetings I could take while on my elliptic trainer to compensate for the missing steps, as an example. Then I introduced yoga practice after the meditation to energize my morning and feel ready to work. A new ritual wearing sports apparel to trigger a well-being feeling. It took a while to readjust the day to cope with the new reality. It was worth managing it consciously.
Indeed, the rationale to work on your energy level is well developed in the publication“Manage your energy not your time”
Organizations are demanding ever-higher performance from their workforces. People are trying to comply, but the usual method—putting in longer hours—has backfired. They are getting exhausted, disengaged, and sick. And they’re defecting to healthier job environments. Longer days at the office do not work because time is a limited resource. But personal energy is renewable, says Schwartz and McCarthy. By fostering deceptively simple rituals that help employees regularly replenish their energy; organizations build workers’ physical, emotional, and mental resilience. These rituals include taking brief breaks at specific intervals, expressing appreciation to others, reducing interruptions, and spending more time on activities people do best and enjoy most.
I experienced the power of taking care of myself physically and of my energy during the day. I now often ask questions to employees who appear tired/exhausted to see how they take care of themselves and what works for them to pass that gift on. Of course, it may be hard to refrain from advising. Yet by listening to the various and diverse ways they all developed, I keep myself under check and listen actively with an open mind to what they do.
Self-management is not only about physical well-being. It is also about emotional well-being!
In my leadership role as well as my coaching experience, I learned and confirmed how much understanding and managing my own emotions were crucial.
In teamwork, managing colleagues’emotions is equally essential. Yet, the corporate world does not allow emotions to be expressed or addressed.
My first observation was that I as well as many of my colleagues did not have even the word to describe how we felt in the present moment.
I printed in my office the wheel of emotions and displayed it on my whiteboard. I would ask colleagues coming into my office: how they feel right now. It required a certain level of courage to display a wheel of emotion and ask that question! After the first surprise (eyes wide open, a minute of silence, a strange look), it created immediately a casual and constructive discussion that was most appreciated on both sides. It was a good icebreaker.
I went back once to the office recently to meet a colleague who wanted to talk. I was very touched as she stood in my office, purposely looked at the wheel, and asked herself out loud. How do I feel right now?
I never realized that it became a ritual and made a difference to some.
In a team setting, we started to add an inclusion round at the beginning of our meetings to let participants express how they felt or what their intention was. We also concluded on a similar note. Likewise, after the first element of surprise, it induced a closeness and togetherness.
All emotions must be accepted and not judged so that team members feel safe to continue expressing their authentic self, in other words, create intimacy and trust: a safe space, an inclusive climate as described by Willliam Schutz, in the Human element.
The freedom of choice … self-leadership:
Recognizing and managing our emotions is also a key competency to behave beneficially in the context we operate.
ICA module “responding vs reacting” reads:
When the world around us changes something that involves us – directly or indirectly – we either RESPOND or REACT and there are consequences to each action. The same goes for when an event occurs in our personal or professional life. We either respond or react to it.
The act of responding is an act of freedom and consequently has the power within it. Responding creates opportunity and involves the ability to act with a sense of responsibility and trustworthiness. The act of reacting, however, comes from somewhere in the past and lacks power because the response is based on resistance or opposition without much thought. The reaction can often perpetuate a problem, or exaggerate an event.
In the module “responsibility vs blame” we learned:
In any given situation you are either taking responsibility or you are blaming. Responsibility is about giving up on the chance of a different past and focusing on choosing the future. When we are blaming someone or something else, we are giving away our power and positioning ourselves as the victim. If every situation is completely the fault of someone or something else, then our hands are tied. We have given ourselves no choices. If instead, we decide that every situation involves something we created, then we can put ourselves back in control. We can make choices, which will change or at least modify the situation. When we choose to take responsibility, we choose freedom.
The notion of freedom and choice appears in different power tools and is key to manage in a world of uncertainty and change… the new normal in the corporate world.
This is how Cliff Hakim summarizes this notion.
“We live in a world where self-leadership, taking responsibility for knowing yourself and for engaging in deliberate and constructive thoughts and contribution, is increasingly a core value.”
As an application to this concept, I designed a workshop for peers who selected the topic ‘leading in times of uncertainty and change” for our year-end meeting, a gathering of selected leaders around the world. The objective was, using a coaching session design with few questions to
- Create awareness around the choices we all can make in a time of changes,
- Then, following a coaching design, to build on the awareness of creating learnings and actions(commitments).
The first question was to list the expectations the participants had from “An ideal Leader”. They listed “wanted behaviors”, “unwanted behaviors” and their triggers.
The most significant learning materialized when the participants converted their view of the ideal leader and read the “wanted behaviors” using “I”: I will show courage…
One participant summarized his learning by “I am the actor” “I am in the driving seat”.
This was the highlight of the moment, full of positive energy and hope for the future. Yet awareness is not enough: each participant designed his/her personal action plan, support structure, and committed to putting these actions (one in the days to come, one in the week to come, and one in the month to come) in place. This was the anchor of the realization.
Creatingintrinsic motivation for team engagement
Literature is abundant around the importance of team engagement. The Gallup survey regularly publishes demoralizing results on the level of engagement, which is nothing else than a waste of talents.
I searched specifically what the literature had to say on coaching a team to create engagement.
To create a sense of meaningfulness and develop employee’s potential, Merci Miglino gives the following direction to start this journey
“Here are some tips to help you move from managing to coaching:
+ Set mutually agreed-to goals. Coaching is goal-focused, designed to create well-defined, engaging goals from the coachee. Telling employees what their goals should be reduced buy-in and accountability. Instead, ask in-depth questions about career goals and what steps are necessary for achieving them.
+Ask don’t tell. When an employee comes to you with a problem expecting you to solve it, resisting giving advice. Instead, ask open-ended questions that encourage critical thinking. Ask, “What are your ideas?” or “What steps would you take?” The goal here is to empower people with valuable decision-making skills and reduce their reliance on you.
+Delegate challenging tasks. Many managers complain that they have to do everything because “no one else will.” This speaks to a lack of delegating effectively. Consider setting aside time to teach others new skills and when mistakes happen (because they will) guide people through them without taking over.
+Offer continuous feedback. Research shows that feedback is far more effective when given promptly rather than once or twice a year. People need consistent encouragement to keep up with ever-changing projects and workloads.
+Model Professional Development. One of the best ways to influence others is to model the growth you are encouraging. Invest in your personal development through in-depth reading, training, coaching, and self-reflection.
How powerful to read that all begin by oneself and modeling the learning process for the team to feel this sense of progress and motivation. It is like looping back to self-management.
Creating a sense of competence.
To create a sense of competence, I would like to refer to the power tool “acknowledgment”.
Matisson Grey explained what acknowledgment is (not appreciation) and its effect on the receiving party.
“Acknowledgment is saying what a person did, or results they achieved, delivered with a tone of appreciation, curiosity or surprise, and without judgment”.
Among all these tools (compliments, appreciation, validation, affirmation, thanking, recognition, praise, or championing), the only one that is factual and that puts all of the attention and focus on the other person is acknowledgment. It is the only one, which is not about the giver. When people get true acknowledgment, it is like jet fuel. It gives us energy, lights us up, and spurs us on. It also allows us to learn about ourselves and own our accomplishments.
Genuine Acknowledgement is a fantastic tool for managers, when used appropriately, not answering “great work” in a chain of emails. That is generously qualified as praise. It is hard work to acknowledge from the perspective of the other, and not from our own. It does need practice.
Interestingly, in mentor coaching, the mentor stated that to understand acknowledgment for others, it was important to start acknowledging oneself first. As for all “tools”, I can only master the tool when I practice it on myself first. “Self-acknowledgement”.
One example of self-acknowledgment could be: “Congratulations Anne-Lise, you are writing this chapter as you promised yourself on time and with passion….
Interestingly I speak to myself in the third person…To fully savor it, let me use the pronoun“I”, as I encouraged my peers to do in our workshop
“Congratulations, I am writing this chapter as I promised myself on time and with my all my heart”.
In the ICA module on acknowledgment, we learned that we can acknowledge others and ourselves only when we are confident and strong! It also introduces the concept of celebration with examples of self-acknowledgment and celebration in the work environment: I borrowed the idea to include celebration as an agenda item for our function meeting. Celebrating achievements creates a lightness and positive energy that all participants can feel flowing. The meeting attendees open their minds and are ready to be creative being confident they can do it!
We will come back to this observation in the next chapter.
Creating a sense of competence using a strength centered approach to fuel energy
Recognizing strengths and believing in the capability and competence of the client is the prerequisite to coaching, enabling moving forward and transformation. This foundation applies in the same way for team management.
A “coach manager” will operate filled with the belief that the team has the solutions and each team member has the potential to contribute.
My education was not to identify my strengths. My background was to diagnose issues or gaps and fix them. In ICA, we learned a radically different approach. It blew my mind and resulted in several aha moments, learnings, and action items for me as a coach and as a manager!
For individual development, “Strength finder” puts in words your strengths. A bit like emotions, that was not an easy task to find the precise words on my own and describe my strengths accurately.
With a peer coach, we decided to test this tool and coached ourselves on our respective strengths. It was so interesting to realize that for both of us, it became instinctively “a weakness finder”. Discipline was not on my list of strengths! Realizing how we so quickly tweaked the purpose was a revelation. Coaching enabled both of us to shift our perspective and embrace our strengths, speak about them, build on them and have the courage to ask our peers also to give us feedback on how they saw our strengths. Such a rich and positive exchange… a precious time, the ability to give back, and exchanging what we thought their strengths were.
I built that as a regular exercise (yearly) for myself. It is restorative, like yoga: a source of mental energy.
Likewise, tools help understand team strengths and fuel positive energy into the team ecosystem. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) attracted me immediately.
Sandy Gordon suggests the following definition of Appreciative Inquiry(AI)applied to coach:
“AI is regarded as a positive, strengths-based operational approach to change, learning, and development that seems most suitable for coaching practitioners working in all settings”.
She compares problem-solving questions to appreciative questions
As a practical way to introduce Appreciative Inquiry in my management approach, I decided to put into action the last question suggested in the ICA module
“Practice inviting clients to discover and focus on strengths, and notice any changes in their energy, productivity, motivation”
In our company, we are working on Team Development and we conduct yearly reviews. To prepare that discussion, I replaced the classical team gap analysis with a team strength analysis. The objective was to identify the type of skills we already had and wanted to keep as well as those we wanted to develop for the future. Again, we worked in a workshop format with simple questions. The first one was. What are our current strengths? The level of energy, of input, and participation generated by the visualization of our strength, was amazing: a virtual room full of energy, a lot of positive feedback for that session. Other groups borrowed this exercise afterward with a similar outcome.
Also, we have decided to include the follow up of our development actions into our metrics to make progress visible and show to the people that we value the team development and people, not only what needs to be achieved.
Creating a sense of meaningfulness: the purpose
In a class on values and life purpose, we conducted an exercise: think of someone you admire and write the name. Name the qualities that you admire in that person. Realize that if you can detect these qualities, you also have them in you. These are your values. From the values, deduct your life purpose. “Forge the path to Growth and Enrichment” is my life purpose!
Starting by myself with experiencing something new every day. This lifelong journey is based on identifying my strength and my values. I also strongly believe that learning is a strong value of mine. This is what always motivated me: from childhood as young as I can remember I wanted to learn to read. The lack of willingness to learn or explore new fields is clearly, something that is triggering me when I detect it in a fellow employee. I just have difficulties with team members who are afraid of new fields, unknown territories. I learned to accept it. I now understand that it may be difficult for some other people.
Support others’ Growth based on their values and, hopefully, enrich their reality. Both in a personal and professional context it means to believe in people’s development and support it actively. Team Development and Individual Development are the cornerstones of what I believe in.
As described in the ICA module on the coaching model, GROW happens to be the most well-known coaching model: Goal, Reality, Options, and Will. The clarity given by the goal, the exploration of the current reality, the realization of the different options, and finally the commitment to move forward describes the cycle of learning toward enriching oneself.
Likewise, in my professional environment, the company developed the values, mission, and vision that inspire the employees. I decided to develop a recent and explicit team purpose inspired by the method described by Todd Darnold.
He stated that, in a corporate context, the cornerstone of any motivating culture is a compelling purpose underlying that organization’s existence. The purpose must follow five basic rules:
- It is authentic
- It is action-oriented
- It is meaningful
- It is clear
- It is inspiring
To do so, I went back to what the team is doing: the What, then How. We described the way we wanted to own our actions and collaborate, exploring with curiosity what owning and collaborating meant for us. I listened to feedback from our stakeholders. Suddenly it all made sense: our purpose summarized, as we are a competitive advantage for the business. Yet it cannot be used without involving the whole team in this quest for a purpose that speaks to all. Let’s see where this will lead us.
Just taking the time to look in that direction gave me a sense of purpose, in my role as a coaching leader. I am curious about the feedback I will get on the process itself… and the result.
Creating trust and intimacy as a conclusion.. a paradox!
I conclude on what deserves the first spot, what is the foundation of any healthy relationship: Trust.
It all starts with establishing a safe space. Without safe space, no trust. Without trust, no coaching can take place as the client cannot fully express him/herself.
ICF PCC markers on trust and intimacy read:
- Coach acknowledges and respects the client’s work in the coaching process
- Coach expresses support for the client
- Coach encourages and allows the client to fully express him/herself
Likewise, this is the foundation of the relationship between a manager and his team. In this context, it is referred to as psychological safety.
Yet, Trust is such a broad concept. I wanted to understand it much better by breaking it into pieces.
The “Thin book of trust” explained the different facets of trust, therefore how to build it and maybe even more importantly in a corporate context how to reconstruct it.
In a given person, we rarely distrust all four aspects detailed below. It is therefore very important to analyze what is happening precisely in the relationship early enough and specific enough to be able to talk about it and repair it before the relationship is destroyed
Without trust, a coaching relationship cannot operate. Without trust, a managerial relationship cannot build a team and bring energy,
William Schultz in his book“The Human element, productivity, self-esteem, and bottom line” describes a direct relationship between self-esteem and the ability to avoid rigidity. For him, openness to its own and others’ emotions will determine how successful a team will be. Rigidity is based on insecurities. Flexibility, openness is based on confidence/trust and creates the key element of a productive team.
Stephen Covey, a world leader on trust describes the 13 behaviors of highly trusted leaders worldwide;
- Talk Straight-
- Demonstrate Respect
- Create Transparency
- Right Wrongs
- Show Loyalty
- Deliver Results
- Get Better
- Confront Reality
- Clarify Expectation
- Practice Accountability
- Listen First
- Keep Commitments
- Extend Trust
To create trust, if we apply the same concept as before, it needs to start with oneself. Self-confidence is the basis to communicate effectively and to create an efficient working relationship climate.
This is my part of my journey, daily, to work on my self-confidence, What strengths do I bring to the team? What is my purpose? What is my intent for myself? For the team? It fuels my energy and subconsciously emits vibes to create a trusting environment I cherish and enrich.
I worked to define the fine line between trusting oneself and being arrogant. That was the realization that arrogance is so often the mask of insecurities.
Self-confidence, self-trust comes when you feel safe and secure. I am the actor in my journey!
Confidence is contagious. Pass it on, and what is better than a smile to close this paper?
Smile for everyone lacks self-confidence and more than any other one thing a smile reassures. Andre Maurois
References and Further reading
Quote attributed to Lavoisier who demonstrated hypothesis from a Greek philosopher Anaxagoras
Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy: Manage your energy, not your time. Harward business review Oct 2007
Kenneth Wayne THOMAS: Intrinsic motivation at work
William Schultz: The Human Element: Productivity, Self-Esteem, and the Bottom Line. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass (1994)
ICA module “responding vs reacting”
ICA module “responsibility vs blame”
Cliff Hakim: We are all self-employed Berret-Koehler Publishers
Merci Miglino: Manager and Coach: Making Both Works for YouNovember 11, 2019
ICA module: acknowledgment
Sandy Gordon: Appreciative Inquiry Coaching. International Coaching Psychology Review Vol. 3 No. 1 March 2008 17 The British Psychological Society – ISSN: 1750-2764
International Association of Coaching Blog Expanding the Path to Coaching Mastery April 26, 2012
Mattison Grey: When the Best Coaching Tool Isn’t a Question
ICA module: Appreciative inquiry
ICA module: Strength finder
Sue Annis HAMMOND: The thin book of Appreciative Inquiry
Todd Darnold: A leader’s guide to writing a compelling purpose statement ( with examples) The QWork future
Charles Feltman The thin book of trust. An essential primer for building trust at work
Stephen MR Covey: how the best leaders build trust Leadershipnow.com/Covey on trust.
Jacqueline M STAVROS, Gina HINRICHS The thin book of SOAR. Creating a strategy that inspires innovation and engagement
ICA module: Active listening:
ICF competencies: creating trust and intimacy
Michael Bungay Stanier: The coaching habit: Say less, ask more, and change the way you lead forever.
Gartner: Building inclusive leaders.
ICA module: coaching model