RECIPROCAL COACHING

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By G. A. Finch

Have you ever set personal business, career or self-improvement goals, and you look up weeks and sometimes months later not having made progress on them?  You realize that you have been distracted and diverted by other challenges and tasks and your goals are in the doldrums.  Career, family and extracurricular demands get in the way.  Life happens.paper-3224643__480

You read, hear and know that you must set specific goals for yourself to get traction on your life’s ambitions.  You know further that it is preferable to have them in writing and with deadlines.  You know what to do, but it is not happening.

Try bi-lateral coaching.  Find a person you trust to be your coaching buddy.  You hold each other’s feet to the fire.  You meet to discuss your goals and why you have not met them.  You, of course, write them down with specific dates of completion.  You check in (preferably in person)  once a week with your coaching buddy and you tell each other what you have accomplished or not. Your goals may evolve over time.rottweiler-1785760__480

What is the effect of a coaching buddy?  Your knowing that you have to report to another human being on your progress toward your goals is a powerful motivator to get things done to achieve those goals.  It is called accountability.  What gets measured and reported gets done.  It is an inexpensive way to keep you motivated and on track.MH900071046

I am doing it now and it has helped to keep me focused and more on task.  I do not want to come up short when I report in to my coaching buddy, and, vice versa, nor does he.   It is a simple solution.  You do not need a drill sergeant or an expensive executive coach to kick you in the pants or encourage you – you just need someone to whom you made a commitment not to disappoint (other than yourself). For long range career development and holistic career counseling, an executive coach may be useful and needed.  For goal setting and execution, a coaching buddy is an effective tool you ought to try.

 

Copyright © 2018 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

LEADING BY READING

By G. A. Finch

It may sound trite but it is generally true that “leaders are readers.”  That is not to say that an uneducated person cannot be a leader in his or her own way; nevertheless, reading has its advantages. We have read or heard that Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, among many other successful business people, are/were avid readers. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson read books as far into old age as they physically could and prized their personal libraries. Benjamin Franklin valued books so much that he created the first lending library in America, and we know what a wise and accomplished man he was.

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More recent presidents, like William Jefferson Clinton and Barack Obama, are known to like to pick up a book.  Whatever your politics may be, Clinton and Obama sound erudite, do they not?  Their knowledge enables them to sound more persuasive and sound more credible, does it not?  An effective executive seeks to become well read by reading often and reading a variety of genres.

Comparable to reading, but not as much as a deep-seated learning and not, I believe, as satisfying, would be listening to audio books and podcasts and watching substantive videos.  In reading, you have time to ponder, contemplate, linger over and ultimately process the content.  One’s listening to audio or watching videos constitutes a more passive brain activity than the act of reading.  It is, of course, better than no learning activity.

The most cerebral people I know voraciously read books and periodicals.  They are well versed on many topics and subjects and are able to connect them, contrast them, 12386-an-stack-of-old-books-isolated-on-a-white-background-pvcompare them, analogize them, extrapolate from them and meaningfully unpack them.

The act of reading or listening to books is the intention and commitment to learn new things and to be in a continuously learning mode –   kind of like a continuing liberal arts education.  Especially now, the  intention-and-commitment-to-learn mode has become imperative given that the rate of expansion of knowledge and innovation seems to double whether in hours, weeks, months or years depending on the field.

My base technology knowledge as a 15-year old was rather primitive and quaint compared to my 15-year-old son who knows how to put together a computer from off-the-shelf components and to program a robot.  He reads articles and blogs on the internet and watches YouTube videos when he wants to learn how to do something.  That is useful learning.  However, he and my teenage daughter and most other teenagers I know do not do enough reading of books, let alone wide and deep reading of books.  I fear their writing and critical thinking skills and broad base knowledge could suffer.  My base general knowledge as a teenager was far greater than theirs is.  I attribute this gap to the fact that I had read many more books by their ages.13728-a-smart-girl-with-glasses-holding-a-book-pv

By reading, you learn how to write better by seeing word usage, different vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and syntax and hearing in the mind’s ear the writer’s voice.   As I alluded earlier about being well versed, by reading you also know more about different topics to inform your professional or social conversations with others.  It can make your conversations more interesting.  Moreover, by reading you bring to bear more knowledge to understand and solve problems and ask the right questions in your work whether it be professional or volunteer work.  When you face industry disruption, must be a change agent, or need to reinvent your business or yourself, your store of knowledge from reading will come in handy!

For those for whom reading does not come readily because of lack of habit or interest, or busyness, the trick is to approach it like starting any new program (like physical exercise or learning a new language): begin lightly with 15 minutes a day and incrementally work your way up to a robust hour.  You may just remember or find what you have been missing all these years: the joys of reading.  You will certainly grow smarter.  Oh, and by the way, if you have trouble falling  asleep at night, start reading a book; it is quicker and healthier than a sleeping pill.

 

Copyright © 2017 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

EXECUTIVES’ JOB INTERVIEW READINESS: G. A. FINCH CHATS WITH COMMUNICATIONS COACH CORINNE VARGAS ABOUT INTERVIEWING

Job interviews are so fundamental to professional advancement.  Every executive has had a few times, if not many times, when the executive did not get the offer.  The executive may feel that the executive “blew” the interview.  The executive may be thinking: Was I too nervous?  Was I too rambling in my responses?  Did I not ask the right questions?  Was my body language off putting?  Was my voice too squeaky?

The executive will analyze the perceived failed interview a thousand different ways.  What is more frustrating is that many executives extensively prepare for interviews by researching the company and its people, anticipating kinds of questions, and practicing scripted answers.    They were prepared, or so they thought.

What most executives do not know about or consider is an interview coach.  Even at the pinnacle of their talents, world class athletes hire coaches to improve their “skills.”  Why wouldn’t you get help on how to nail a job interview?

My blog guest, Corinne Vargas, is just such a person who can help you “up your interview game.”  She is the founder of CVC Consulting, a firm that offers, among other services, coaching for professional and business interviews.

FINCH:   Corinne, we know that a successful interview has a huge impact on whether an executive makes it to the next round and hopefully receives a job offer.  Why do you think it does not occur to most executives that it is worth the investment to hire someone to hone their interviewing skills?

VARGAS:  In my experience, the investment is often not the barrier to hiring a coach. Instead, I have found many executives do not consider interview coaching and support for two reasons: 1) they are eager to start the process of finding a new position and feel they want to tackle it as quickly as possible, which often means alone, OR 2) do not know coaching is available for tailored situations. Unfortunately, many clients find coaches after attempting to tackle the process on their own and in various states of rejection, frustration, and desperation.

However, post-coaching, clients often express the lessened anxiety and frustration they felt during the process compared to going it alone. They explain having a coach “on their side” to help them through various steps in the process proved invaluable. Skilled coaches can help clients though different steps or aspects of the process including interview question preparation, nervous and anxious manifestations, content presentation, transition story framing and storytelling in the interview context. Coached clients frequently state feeling more control over the process and a higher level of confidence and preparedness, ultimately bolstering a better representation of personal brand and better outcomes.

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My advice to an executive in transition or looking to transition, is that it is worth the time to at least explore a coach as it can save time, frustration, and help you achieve your goals with more confidence, focus, and many times speed. If an executive decides to explore the option, they should look for an interview coach who provides focused, tailored coaching sessions offering perspective and actionable feedback.

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POTTY MOUTH IN THE WORKPLACE

By G. A. FINCH

Does boorish behavior matter? As part of our daily work routine, we all experience instances where co-workers, bosses, clients, customers, and vendors use profanity, recount indelicate stories, tell off-color jokes, or over share personal information. It seems that decorum and verbal restraint are neither required nor in vogue anymore. Verbal boundaries have all but disappeared.angry-boss-cursing-grimacing-5343683

Does anybody else miss polite conversation in the work world that used to be the norm? I am not a prude and have myself used profanity on occasion in work-related situations. I would like to think that the few times I use profanity, it is to emphasize a point or to provide colorful context to a story or an experience; maybe my perceived degree of use is a distinction without a difference and I am rationalizing my own verbal indiscretions no matter how limited they may be.angry-cursing-phone-concept-20381448
I know that I am turned off by an excessive use of profanity or habitual tellers of dirty or ethnic jokes. I also get uncomfortable when a work-related person over shares personal information or unusual circumstances, when it is clearly not appropriate to the circumstance or the relationship.  The initial entertainment value of an over sharing story begins to lose its appeal pretty quickly, especially from repeat offenders.  What may have seemed funny or salacious can then make us cringe.

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Despite the increasing coarseness of our popular culture, I think there is something to be said for etiquette – it makes people more comfortable and it reduces the likelihood of offending people. I think those executives and professionals who use no or little profanity, who do not over share, and who resist off-color humor do set themselves apart in a positive way. Crude behavior does have consequences.

NETWORKING – UUUUUGH!

 

BY G. A. FINCH

 
I hate the term “networking”. It is a hackneyed phrase and suggests a mercenary and self-promoting activity. Most people feel networking means going to events, making small talk, collecting business cards, and promising to follow-up. Other people would include informational interviews and requests for lunch or coffee as “networking.” Although there is a certain randomness and hit or miss, scattershot quality in these approaches, it can be more effective and serene than that.

 
Purposeful and Natural

 
What some people call networking, I call flying your flag and meeting people. Flying your flag is seeing and being seen to let people know you exist or remind them of your presence. It is like the old famous philosophical question in solipsism: If the tree falls in the forest and makes a crashing sound and no one is around to hear it crash, does the tree make a sound? Go ponder that. Similarly, if you do not get out and about and no one sees you, how do they really know you exist? In other words, out of sight, out of mind. A certain portion of your going out and about for business reasons should be limited, strategic, and purposeful. The rest should be just a part of your daily life.

 
Not only do you want to meet new people, but you want to maintain connections with people who you already know or have met. I was recently at an event where four people from the same office came together, talked together, and left together. What was that all about? I know they had families and other commitments, so why did they waste their precious time talking to each other and not promoting their organizations or making connections for themselves? It would have been more useful for them to have skipped the event and gone about their personal activities.

 

 

 

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Being There and Luck Finds You

 
Sometimes opportunity presents itself because you happen to be at the right place at the right time. I know a guy that when he sees me will tell people that I am responsible for his job because I had invited him as a guest to an event at which he connected with a person who got him his job and I do not even remember that particular event. However, to his point, I, too, have, on occasion, benefited serendipitously from attending an event – e.g., like my college reunion, during which a classmate, upon learning of an area of my professional expertise and writing experience, placed me on an editorial board of an industry magazine. Another time, as a favor, I was teaching a public speaking workshop, and an observer, unbeknownst to me, quietly recommended me as an attorney to a CEO who then called me out of the blue to represent him in his employment contract. You never know from where opportunity will come.

 
Some forums are better than others. Some forums are not obvious business or professional development opportunities, but abound in potential. You can develop solid relationships from your kids’ school and extracurricular events and neighborhood related activities like block and holiday parties.

 
An executive’s going to an officially described “networking” event, I believe, is a waste of time and diminishes the executive’s brand. It smacks of being a used car salesman trying to make a sale (no offense to used car salesmen).

 
Now we all know of certain trade or business organizations whose major benefit is meeting people to possibly do business, but they are smart enough not to use the term “networking” – people know that everyone present is there to represent or promote his or her company, firm or business and they do so unabashedly but graciously.

 
Divide Your Efforts

 
Through trial and error, you can discern which groups, associations, or clubs seem to offer the greatest yield in terms of business, professional or personal opportunities and information. As you have only so many hours in a day and numerous personal and work commitments, you should narrow your focus to three to four organizations that you enjoy and that prove to be productive. As for the remainder of your efforts, they should be a natural part of your  social sphere like church, school, social clubs, and kids’ activities. They should be natural and effortless by simply participating, being friendly, being helpful and letting people know what you can do, only if you are asked.

 

 

 

 

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Love Thy Neighbor

 
Finally, be open and willing to help people when asked with no expectation of any benefit to you. Without being preachy, this is kind of a variant of the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The best way to love your neighbor is to help him. Even when it is inconvenient and time-consuming, it is always good for your soul to give and benefit another. Your “get” will take care of itself from some other, unexpected source, even if it just feeling great in helping another. Having said that, you do not want to indulge a repeat favor taker (user) who never offers to help anyone else – not a good use of your time, resources, energy and emotions. That was my long way of saying that networking should be more about being helpful to others than about seeking to help oneself. Capiche?

 

Copyright © 2015 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

FIVE SUCCESS LESSONS FROM MOM

BY G. A. FINCH

My mother, Louise Antoinette Finch, passed away last month just two and half months shy of her 100th birthday. She is survived by all six of her sons and one daughter. As an older brother gave a eulogy and the priest gave a homily about my mother and what she represented spiritually, I ruminated about her legacy and the impact of her teachings. Although we are far from perfect as individuals and have had our own share of ups and downs, and some of the siblings may be viewed as more materially successful than other siblings, she obtained the same result from each of her children: all finished college and graduate or University_hatprofessional school. How did she do that? She had a few maxims to live by that she drilled into us. These aphorisms would benefit anyone (executive, professional, and others) seeking to get a leg up in life. I share five of the most salient ones below:

1. When you start something, whether it is a project, a task, a job, an extracurricular activity, or a degree program, you must complete it. My mother abhorred quitters and lack of follow through. She correctly knew that the lack of follow through was a serious impediment to success. So despite unfair teachers, mean camp counselors, arbitrary coaches or a tedious activity, we had to finish whatever program we started. To this day, my siblings and I talk about the little voice in our heads, when times got tough in medical, graduate or law school or in a demanding job, that repeated the mantra: “When you start something, you must finish it.”

2. When we complained of being sick, whether severely or lightly, real or imagined, my mother would say, “Get up, wash your face, brush your teeth, put on your clothes, eat some breakfast, go to school, and, if you are still feeling lousy, then call me.” By the time we did all those things, our ailments seem to Smile Face with Colddisappear or become sufficiently mitigated that we forgot that we were physically or psychologically under the weather. This was her ways of saying a) have a strong work ethic, b) “show up” to where you are supposed to be, and c) adjust your attitude. This anti-slacker and anti-lazy approach again carried me and my siblings through many a school and work day.

3. Surround yourself with quality people and people of integrity. Your friends and peers will make or break you and you will be judged by the company you keep. I think of the hyper academic high school that I was fortunate enough to be able to attend; the super intellectual students forced me to up my game and pull myself up from the mud of mediocrity. Counterintuitively, I did not find the competitive atmosphere intimidating because it actually inspired and stimulated me. My siblings and I have never gotten into serious trouble or arrested because our friends are sensible and have a lot of impulse control.HandcuffsMany a prison inmate laments associating with the “wrong crowd” or corrupting friend that landed him in jail.  In short, choose your friends, associates and peers very carefully.

4. Don’t lie or cheat. Being an honest person meant a lot to my mother. A person of character was the benchmark by which my mother evaluated people. She had an expression, “Pretty is, is as pretty does.” A variant was “Pretty on the inside is more important than being pretty on the outside.”

5. Lastly, my mother was a big one in standing up for yourself when another is perpetrating a wrong upon you or a family member or trying to diminish you or a family member. Mom taught us not to look for fights but not to allow ourselves to be victims. She led by example and did not wait around for my father to get home to go address an injustice at any level or push us out the door to face a bully.Boxing_glovesShe made it clear that this attitude and posture must be based on our position being legitimate and righteous as well as our being without fault.

 

Often times you do not have to travel far to learn self-evident truths; they can be found within the four Home-clipartwalls of your own upbringing without ever stepping outside your own front door. I hear my mother’s voice as I counsel my young daughter and young son about how to stand up to bullies and admonish them to finish their activities.

EXECUTIVE WRITING

BY G. A. FINCH

We know that it is important that an executive have good speaking skills whether it is one-on-one conversation, small group discussions or large meetings.  An executive must know how to make small talk as well as know how to give presentations.

What about writing?  Is your writing up to snuff?  Whether it is a note, memo, letter or lengthy report, and, especially a resume, your writing cannot be filled with misspellings, poor punctuation, bad grammar, or inappropriate use of vocabulary.  It leaves a poor impression and people will judge you, even if they themselves do not know the difference between “its” and “it’s.”Business Woman with laptop

An executive need not be a Pulitzer Prize winner, but she must write effectively and in an educated manner notwithstanding the declining writing standards in texts, tweets, emails, and posts.  Her using the vernacular and improper grammar simply will not do.

Unfortunately, thorough training in writing can be missing in one’s high school, college, and graduate school training.  The level of writing skills is very uneven.  For many educated people, they must teach themselves punctuation and grammar.  As there are plenty of good books and articles available on grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, this article will focus only on providing some practical guides to have in mind when writing for business.

There are many elements of effective business and professional writing.  Here are a few to start:

  1. Generally, shorter sentences are better than longer sentences; sometimes a complex thought requires a complex sentence.
  2. Shorter paragraphs are better than longer ones.
  3. The fewer pages you can make a document without omitting critical information, the better.
  4. An active voice is more powerful than a passive voice; sometimes a passive voice just sounds better.
  5. Simpler words are better than complicated words, e.g. “walk” is better than “ambulate.”
  6. The fewer adjectives in your writing, the better, as the facts should be compelling enough for both writer and reader to form conclusions and recommendations.
  7. You should make sure you know how to use a word, e.g., when something is funny, it is “hilarious” and not “hysterical.”
  8. For long documents, your using headings and sub-headings will help guide the reader and break up dense writing.
  9. It is best to state your proposition or request at the beginning and then follow with arguments and evidence to support your proposition or request.
  10. If you have compelling data, use charts and graphs to illustrate your points as many people are visual learners.
  11. Triple check your numerical calculations and data; faulty numbers and simple numerical mistakes will destroy the credibility of your piece; a lack of attention to detail could be seen as a red flag of your possible sloppy habits and thinking.
  12. You should double-check to spell correctly a person’s or organization’s name  or place-name as people are sensitive about their names, affiliations, hometowns, or countries; and, again,  inattention to detail lowers the reader’s confidence in the writer.
  13. Never totally rely on word processing spell check as it cannot tell the difference between correctly spelled but wrong words like “to” and “too” or “be” and “bee” or “of” and “or.”
  14. Whether it is a four-sentence letter or a 30-page document, read it with a ruler at least three times and have someone else proof read it too; if you have the time, set the document aside a few days before doing a final proof read.
  15. Unless you are a novelist, poet, screenwriter, or playwright writing in those respective genres, do not use profanity, crude words, or off-color references in your business or professional writing.typing
  16. In formal writing, it is better to write out words fully and not use contractions like “can’t” and “don’t,”   because it adds a certain solemnity to the communication and shows respect for your audience.

As an executive or professional you are presumed to be educated, and your bosses, colleagues, clients, customers, and patients expect that you know how to write well.  You do not want to disappoint them.

Oh, and by the way – the only way to improve your writing is by writing.  Like anything else, practice makes perfect.