What does “off” mean?

We’ve felt “off” for over a year. “Things” are upside down in so many ways, it feels. The world stopped, and now we’re restarting without much ramp time…but are we restarting the old way, creating a new way, waiting to see what happens?

Two things can be true at once:

Jump back in

Step back and figure out what you want your future normal to look like and work a plan to make that happen.

Here we go!

Coaching Practice = Practice Coaching

Over and over I remind myself and other coaches that being is greater than doing. Who we are at the foundation, our core, the personal drivers, are crucial to being successful day to day. What we do, the tactics, of course also really matter, but without a sense of why we care about the things we care about, the doing can be simple noise.

Lately, however, I remind myself that the doing must be done. No matter. We don’t coach others with words alone. If our words, the actual coaching, is to be successful they must inspire others to practice. Testing the movements, skills and actions of a sport is how performers learn what drives improvement, and winning.

Without the testing, the doing, the practice we can’t keep the experiment moving and gain ground on the skills.

Coaches need to drill like this. Create opportunities to practice coaching a situation or a skill, role play with others, to do the thing. Find a way to put this into your system.

Practice coaching practice. Practice coaching a meeting, a recruiting call, a drill. Make self-evaluation more than a yearly or quarterly thing.

Be. And Do.

Questioning Learning

Leading is much more than showing, or telling, what you know. It’s allowing others to learn, or to know what they can, at this moment.

Questions are among the most powerful tools in your kit. Authentic, “this is what I’m wondering” questions lead to amazing insights.

And, the asker is often not the primary, and certainly not the only recipient of knowledge.

In fact, questions almost never stand alone. Nor does the asker. Someone else almost always has a version of the same inquiry. By not asking out loud, opportunities are missed.

A leader among peers will find ways to encourage questions rather than stifle them with a barrage of answers.

Questions are unifying. In this unprecedented time, coaches can use strong questions to bring groups together when they can’t be together, to unify thru forcing a shared experience. Learning, together, is powerful.

Leadership can look like the solo, up front, figure, the one with the microphone, at the podium, all eyes on them. It can also look like living the values, being curious about the future and asking questions that others might be afraid to ask.

Rather than saying, “Google it,” ask, “what do you think?” and see how it goes.

Personal statement

As a coach I enjoy digging into new things, reading about the ideas, strategies and philosophies of those who have written their ideas down before me.

What’s new? Is of interest. And, I know that the time I spend clarifying these things for myself and my teams is the most impactful work that I will do.

The slowing down and thinking and writing, the parts that are not always as fun are what works. For me.

At the start of the new year we look for new things: challenges, philosophies, topics to attack. What about those things that we had on our list in other Januarys? Did all of the boxes get checked? Are those things no longer inspiring, didn’t work or just became tarnished with the passing of winter into spring?

Maybe all of these things, or maybe I’m just really good at starting things…

“What does that look like?” is the question that has moved me forward as a coach more than any bigger questions of meaning, other people’s frameworks or philosophies.

The second most important question is what “what doesn’t that look like?”, or what’s not it? Once again, providing myself with examples, customizing the bigger thoughts, is what makes things move forward.

Education is free. When I take the time to learn and study what matters, globally and then make it fit for me…a stitch here, a tuck here, a little bit of expansion there… everything is customizable. I’m going to go build something. For me.

When All You Have is a Hammer, Everything is a Nail

Multi-tools are cool. Stuffed into a stocking, offered as a gift, kept in the glove box, just in case.

Oh, the things you can do with a screwdriver, wrench, corkscrew and nail clipper all-in-one! Whatever the problem, it’s got the tool for you…as long as you have a “standard” problem. And even better if it’s a small problem.

If your need is metric, or bigger than a nose hair scissor, or requires a hammer, the tool in the pocket of your backpack likely won’t do it.

For your problem you might need a 5/16-in socket, or a sledgehammer, those things are not in the glove box. Keep that multi-tool handy, there are lots of things that can help you with. Just don’t think that you can toss it in your pocket and be all set.

For what you need you should consult your customized toolbox.

If you’ve lived in one room, or remember your first apartment, you know what it’s like to try to open a can without a proper can opener. It’s doable with a knife and a hammer, but not safe, nor especially effective, and you might get shards of metal in your tuna, or glass in your beer.

So, for you Coach, start building a set of tools that will work for you in any circumstance. Perhaps you know you won’t need a sledgehammer, that your style will require a full set of sockets, or that Allen wrenches and needle nose pliers are going to be more important to you. Think about it, and for sure you should develop your skills for when you don’t have the exact to what you need, but you can do better than a one size fits all gadget.

And for sure have vise grips.

Milkweed Project

Milkweed is a life cycle on display.

It’s like an idea. Ideas are born, grow, spread their seeds and become greater through the additions of other factors. The offspring ideas find places to grow, the many seeds float and beautify on the way and a select few get lucky and start the process all over again.

For me, milkweed also reminds me of a time with my dad. A time when he made me grow by not helping with a school project. Even my tears which almost always worked on him did not that day.

The milkweed report was going to have to be written on my own.

I wish the fear of failure and procrastination tendencies went away that day with the milkweed report. They didn’t. I’m still a master procrastinator, sometimes moved to tears by my inability to get started. I know I’m not alone in that situation, but it feels good to say out loud anyway.

I am happy to have the milkweed memory to remind me that things do get done.

Rule #31

This one is a rule that’s being broken in our current times. The era of COVID-19 is providing rare situations for certain.

The exceptions don’t make the rule invalid, however. Most things are not unique; even large scale pandemics have happened and we might learn from those instances. For sure we can learn from our personal, more day-to-day happenings.

When challenges present themselves look for examples of previous similar happenings and see what you can learn from those.

Most things are not rare.

Rule #10

This simple rule seems to speak for itself.

If you know who you mean or intend to say, or the action or emotion you’re having, and it’s non-controversial, saying it is easy.

Often times our intentions are not clear, and our talk might me misleading or confusing. Clarify with yourself first.

This rule requires us to know what we mean, often the more challenging part of the equation.

How Much Connection Is Enough?

In these unusual times the world is talking a lot about connection. How do we replace in-person connection with virtual or other forms of connection?

Is there a limit, or an ideal amount of communication or connection on a team?

Is it bad that I’m tired of Zoom?

This got me thinking about the types of connection on teams in “regular” circumstances. Should every team member have a tight connection with every other team member? Is this a reasonable goal on any sized team? Here are two models of connection; both have TEAM in the middle.

#1 has solid connections between each and every team member. These connections pass thru the team each time.

#2 shows each team member having a solid connection to the team. Is this enough?

Trust Is Tricky, and Easier Than You Think

When you’re the little kid holding hands and jumping into the pool, you fully trust the other guy, you’re honest with your word. You jump.

But after that one time when the other guy doesn’t jump with you…when you feel laughed at, do you become the guy who doesn’t jump?

“I’ll trust them as soon as they prove their worth it”.

Will that work? How else to do that except to jump when you said you would? ‘Cause when you don’t jump, you’re the liar and the one not to be trusted.

What’s the downside to being in the pool on a hot day anyway? So what if you’re alone because your the only guy who jumps.

Every.
Time.

Coach, create a culture where everyone agrees that honesty and being true to their word is the thing–that jumping is only the mechanism.