Tag Archives: Coaching

Less Talk, More Action-The PAR Technique

In “Good Boss, Bad Boss” Robert Sutton talks about a problem many of us see in our workplaces — too much talking and not enough doing. Sutton says too often people (this includes bosses and their subordinates) know what needs to be done but rather than doing it, they talk (hold endless meetings), write about it, and study it to death. Professor Sutton shares about a restaurant chain that hired a consulting firm to create a detailed plan to improve their operations. During the presentation, a long-time executive shared that a decade earlier, the company had received the same report. The executive then proceeded to read from the old report which had almost the same advice as the new one. The lesson: Management had known for quite some time what needed to be done, but they just didn’t do it.

For today’s post, I will use the PAR technique (Problem, Action, Results) also called STAR (Situation or Task, Action, Result) to share about my experiences living and working on an island in the North Pacific Ocean – an island called Saipan. This PAR method (I hope) will help you see how simple it is to not just talk about a problem, but to act to resolve it.

BACKGROUND

Yearning for adventure, excitement, and something different, I left Texas in January 2004 to live and work on an island in the North Pacific Ocean as a Behavior Specialist. My job covered 20 schools on the islands of Saipan (15 schools), Rota (3 schools), and Tinian (2 schools) totaling over 12,000 students. It included assessing at-risk and conduct/behavioral problem students, observing and conducting functional behavior assessments, designing appropriate behavior intervention plans, and assisting teachers and school staff in the proper implementation of the prescribed behavior program. On a daily basis, I provided consultations to school staff to train and assist in behavior and classroom management, positive behavior support, school crisis management, and traumatic stress & crisis intervention response.

(P)ROBLEM

Saipan, Rota, and Tinian (collectively called CNMI or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) posed a particular challenge due to their geographical locations (eight hours west of Hawaii), their relatively young educational system (public education did not start until the mid 1940’s when the first public school, WSR Elementary, was established in 1946, with others soon following in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s) and cultural values and norms.

There are more than 20 ethnicities and nationalities from East, West, as well as Pacific communities, including Chamorro, Carolinian, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Bangladesh, Russian, Thai, Vietnamese, Micronesian (Yapese, Chuukese, Pohnepeian), Palauan, Hawaiian, Marshall Islands, American, Australian, and various European communities. Although the island (population 82,000) is considered Chamorro and Carolinian, more than half of the population is comprised of foreign “guest workers” employed in the garment and tourist industries. In fact, there are roughly 17,500 garment workers and laborers in the CNMI, most of whom are non-English speaking Chinese.

With the stigmas and misinformation surrounding mental health and mental illness, coupled with an educational system still in its infancy and an economy dependent on U.S. federal support, counseling services and school crisis management were at the bottom of the priority scale in the eyes of the cash-strapped government and local school system.

(A)CTION

Being one to never back down from a challenge and understanding that (as my friend and coworker described) the CNMI was “fertile soil” to work in, I was able to set and attain two goals: (1) Being part of a six-member Counseling Steering Committee Team that successfully implemented a Monthly Level-Sharing program (CMLS) to train school counselors; and (2) Conducting 25 workshops and training over 700 teachers and school staff on Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Training and Behavior & Classroom Management.

(1) I partnered with a team of counselors in the local school system and the local mental health agency to educate and train other counselors and to equip them with basic counseling and trauma response skills to address the psychological and emotional needs of students at school and other children and adolescents in the community.

(2) Together with a colleague, I wrote two grants, secured funding, and became a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Certified Instructor to educate and train teachers, administrators, and school staff on how to best manage anxious, hostile, and/or violent crisis situations in their classrooms and on their campuses.

(R)ESULTS

The responses and feedback were phenomenal.

(1) Through our CNMI Counselors Monthly-Level Sharing Meetings/Trainings, we tackled difficult topics including child sexual abuse, suicide, and self-injurious behaviors. School counselors reported an increase in feelings of confidence and competence in addressing some of these issues in their schools.

(2) As a result of the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Workshops as well as trainings and presentations on classroom management and anti-bullying, over 700 educators, counselors, and administrators were trained on best-practices models in managing crisis and potentially volatile situations.

Here is an example of data from the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training conducted at an elementary school (on Feb. 6-7, 2006), a high school (Apr. 1-2, 2006) and during two PSS Statewide Professional Developments (Feb. 8-10 & Aug. 17-18, 2006). Of those who attended the Statewide Professional Development workshop (on Aug. 17-18, 2006) and who responded to the workshop questionnaire on a scale of 1-5 (5 being very useful), 14 out of 14 (100%) said they “strongly agreed” that they had met the program objective to use nonverbal techniques to prevent acting-out behavior; 14 out of 14 (100%) said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” they had met the program objective to use CPI’s Principles of Personal Safety to avoid injury to all involved in a crisis situation; 14 out of 14 (100%) said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” they had met the program objective to use safe physical intervention procedures as a last resort when a person is a danger to self or others; All participants or 100% gave the overall Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training program the highest approval rating of “5” (strongly agree). These figures reflect the overwhelmingly positive response to the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Training program.

WHAT I LEARNED – The Key Lessons

As with many important things which transcend the lessons and printed materials drawn from textbooks, what my job and interactions in the CNMI have taught me are the following:

(1) A collaborative spirit and attitude work best.
(2) Keep things simple, practical, and relevant in order to link talking to action.
(3) Everyone, from children to adults, from the under- to the over-educated has a story to share. Make time to listen to their stories.
(4) Don’t ever assume you know them, their problems, or traumas – you don’t.
(5) Above all else, treat everyone with kindness and respect because no one likes being talked down to.

Side note to #2: The older I get and the more “education” I receive, the more I realize that simple is often best and that the smartest, wisest people are those who ask questions rather than speak. There are also people who are impressed with what Robert Sutton calls “jargon monoxide” or gobbledygook, nonsense. They tend to talk more and do less, rather than the opposite – talk less and do more. In my own experience, I have discovered that people who have a tendency to spew out “jargon monoxide” are those trying to hide their own incompetence or those trying to impress others. It’s even funnier when these same people use big words to which they don’t know the meanings to. Sometimes, real life is much more entertaining than television.

Reference

Sutton, R.I. (2010). Good boss, bad boss: How to be the best… and learn from the worst. New York: Business Plus.

*This entry (in its entirety) is also cited as:

Nguyen, S. (2011). Less talk, more action—The PAR technique. Journal of Safe Management of Disruptive and Assaultive Behavior, 19(1), 14-16.

Eight Effective Stress Management Strategies

[NOTE: This post was updated December 2017]

In this post, I want to share eight useful stress management tips and strategies.

Stress may be defined as “the experience of a perceived threat (real or imagined) to one’s well-being, resulting from a series of physiological responses and adaptations” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 62). There are two kinds of stress, eustress refers to stress associated with positive events, and distress refers to negative events. “Stress can be associated with most daily activities” (p. 62).

Strategies to manage stress include: assessing stressors, changing responses, and learning to cope. Find out what works best for you—it may be taking mental or physical action; downshifting; changing the way you think; managing your emotional responses; exercise, relax & eat right; yoga, qi gong, tai chi, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation; learning time management; managing your finances; or using alternative stress management techniques—will help you better cope with stress (Donatelle, 2009).

Six Ways To Relax Your Mind (WebMD; Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic):

(1) Writing/Journaling – Write about things that are bothering you. Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. This helps you identify sources of stress and finding ways to manage them (WebMD).

(2) Discussing Feelings – Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counselor, or a member of the clergy about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress (WebMD).

(3) Doing Things You Enjoy – This can be hobbies, volunteer work, etc. Take time to engage in activities that you like (WebMD).

(4) Focusing on the Present – One thing we all struggle with (at one time or another) is the tendency to jump to conclusions or “fortune-telling” where we assume we know what the future holds or what “will” happen (Williams, Edgerton, & Palmer, 2010). Another tip for being more present-minded is meditation (MayoClinic). Check out a nice meditation exercise here.

(5) Cognitive Restructuring – The modification of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that contribute to stress. “To combat negative self-talk, we must first become aware of it, then stop it, and finally replace the negative thoughts with positive ones—a process referred to as cognitive restructuring” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 79).

(6) Downshifting – “Today’s lifestyles are hectic and pressure-packed, and stress often comes from trying to keep up [with others]” and trying to “have it all.” “Downshifting involves a fundamental alteration in values and honest introspection about what is important in life” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 78).

Two Ways To Relax Your Body (WebMD; Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic):

(1) Exercise – Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress (WebMD; MayoClinic).

(2) Relaxation Techniques – Breathing exercises, meditation, muscle relaxation, yoga, qi gong, and tai chi can help relieve stress (Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic; WebMD).

Stress has an enormous impact on the human body (See this Washington Post link). Stress affects the nervous system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, etc.). “Successful stress management involves mentally developing and practicing self-esteem skills, focusing on positive thinking about yourself, and examining self-talk to reduce irrational responses” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 79).

Finally, there’s a concept called psychological hardiness:

“Psychologically hardy people are characterized by control, commitment, and an embrace of challenge. People with a sense of control are able to accept responsibility for their behaviors and change those that they discover to be debilitating” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 75-76).

Hardiness is the “foundation of an individual’s ability to cope with stress and remain healthy” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 76).

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor

References

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Mayo Clinic — Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

Mayo Clinic — Stress Relief
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-relief/hlv-20049495

Mayo Clinic — Video: Need to relax? Take a break for meditation
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/multimedia/meditation/vid-20084741

Washington Post: Stress and Your Body
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2007/01/22/GR2007012200620.html

WebMD: Stress Management – Ways to Relieve Stress
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-relieving-stress

Williams, H., Edgerton, N., & Palmer, S. (2010). Cognitive Behavioural Coaching. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The complete handbook of coaching (pp.37-53). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

10 Most Visited Posts and 10 Posts You Might Have Missed

10 MOST VISITED POSTS

  1. People with a Situational Value System – “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person.”
  2. Leadership Lessons from the Titanic – “Madam, God himself could not sink this ship.”
  3. What Gets You Up in the Morning? – “What Keeps You Up at Night?”
  4. The 4 Character Strengths of a Leader – Humility, Forgiveness, Self-Control, and Kindness.
  5. How Face-to-face Conversations Help Us Deal with Technostress – The most profound and easiest solution on “unplugging” is to simply “talk.”
  6. Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance – When employees resist change they are protecting/defending something they value and which seems threatened by the attempt at change.
  7. The Dangers of Charismatic Leaders – 4 negative consequences of charismatic leaders.
  8. 5 Reasons Why Employees Stay – Pride, Compatibility, Compensation, Affiliation, and Meaning.
  9. How to Create an Inspiring Work Setting – Some great ways to foster an inspired work environment.
  10. Work Stresses, Bad Bosses, and Heart Attacks – 75% of the workforce say their immediate boss is the most stressful part of their job.

10 POSTS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

  1. Elements of Corporate Cultures – Culture can be the company’s values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
  2. A 24/7 Mindset about Work is Bad for Your Health – Employees who are highly engaged need time off the job to unwind and distance themselves from their work.
  3. The Price of Workplace Incivility in the Navy – “Nasty people pack a lot more wallop than their more civilized counterparts.”
  4. Coping With Fear-Lessons for Business and Life – “Don’t let fear undermine your chance to do that one thing you’ve wanted to do.”
  5. What Really Motivates Employees – The top motivation for workers is making progress.
  6. Are You A Chronic Kicker? – A “chronic kicker” is a person who’s constantly complaining about his or her job.
  7. Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell – Treating employees with respect and dignity tops the list.
  8. Leadership and Life Lessons from John Wooden – “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
  9. Workplace Incivility Hurts Employees & Businesses – A survey of public sector employees in the United States found that 71% of respondents reported at least some experience of workplace incivility during the previous 5 years.
  10. Workplace Incivility Causes Mistakes and Even Kills – “Incivility doesn’t shock people into better focus. It robs concentration, hijacks task orientation, and impedes performance.”

Eight Common Problems Teams Encounter

Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange lists EIGHT problems that teams encounter:

  1. Absence of team identity. Members may not feel mutually accountable to one another for the team’s objectives. There may be a lack of commitment and effort, conflict between team goals and members’ personal goals, or poor collaboration.
  2. Difficulty making decisions. Team members may be rigidly adhering to their positions during decision making or making repeated arguments rather than introducing new information.
  3. Poor communication. Team members may interrupt or talk over one another. There may be consistent silence from some members during meetings, allusions to problems but failure to formally address them, or false consensus (everyone nods in agreement without truly agreeing).
  4. Inability to resolve conflicts. Conflicts can not be resolved when there are heightened tensions and team members make personal attacks or aggressive gestures.
  5. Lack of participation. Team members fail to complete assignments. There may be poor attendance at team meetings or low energy during meetings.
  6. Lack of creativity. The team is unable to generate fresh ideas and perspectives and doesn’t turn unexpected events into opportunities.
  7. Groupthink. The team is unwilling or unable to consider alternative ideas or approaches. There is a lack of critical thinking and debate over ideas. This often happens when the team overemphasizes team agreement and unity.
  8. Ineffective leadership. Leaders can fail teams by not defining a compelling vision for the team, not delegating, or not representing multiple constituencies.

*Note: For a more comprehensive look at effective teamwork, read my 2016 post, “Characteristics of a Team and Barriers to Effective Team Functioning.”

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Leading Teams: Pocket Mentor Series, Harvard Business Press

When Participative Leadership Results in Indecisive Leadership

Participative leadership is where a leader consults with and encourages subordinates’ participation in the decision-making process. Participative leaders have a tendency to seek feedback from those who report to them and taking their suggestions into account before making decisions (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008). While it is not necessary to always consult with others, there are advantages in soliciting subordinates’ advice, namely better decisions and greater acceptance of decisions (Yukl, 2010).

However, participative leadership is ineffective if any of the following occurs (Yukl, 2010):

  1. the subordinates don’t all share the leader’s objectives,
  2. the subordinates don’t want to take responsibility for helping to make decisions,
  3. the subordinates distrust the leader, or
  4. if there’s a time crunch (difficult to track everyone down) making it impractical to consult with individuals or hold group meetings.

When a leader constantly asks for subordinates’ input, it communicates to employees, and even those observing from outside the company, that the leader’s style is counterproductive to getting things accomplished, and achieving stated goals and objectives in a timely manner.

References

Schermerhorn, J.R., Hunt, J.G., & Osborn, R.N. (2008). Organizational behavior (10th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Workplace Incivility Causes Mistakes and Even Kills

Research on workplace incivility (for example, emotional abuse or rudeness in the workplace) revealed that if someone is rude to you at work or if you witness rudeness you are more likely to make mistakes.

In The No Asshole Rule, Bob Sutton shared that nurses reported being demeaned at an alarmingly high rate. “A 1997 study of 130 U.S. nurses…found that 90% reported being victims of verbal abuse by physicians during the past year” (p. 21). A 2003 study of 461 nurses revealed that in the past month 91% had experienced verbal abuse, often from physicians (Sutton, 2007).

In a previous post entitled Workplace Incivility Hurts Employees & Businesses, I shared Pearson and Porath (2009) findings that 1 in 5 people in their study claimed to be targets of incivility from a coworker at least once a week. About 2/3 said they witnessed incivility happening among other employees at least once a month. 10% said they saw incivility among their coworkers every day. Workplace incivility (e.g., rudeness) can have a negative effect on the efficiency and productivity of the organization (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001).

“[W]hen people feel mistreated and dissatisfied with their jobs, they are unwilling to do extra work to help their organizations, to expend ‘discretionary effort.’” (Sutton, 2007, pp. 40-41).

“A hostile environment erodes cooperation and a sense of commitment to high-quality care…and that increases the risk of medical errors.” -Dr. Peter B. Angood, chief patient safety officer at the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

So what?

Porath and Erez (2007) discovered that being the victim of rudeness can impair your cognitive skills. Tarkan (2008), writing in The New York Times, said that rude, bad behaviors on the part of physicians lead to “medical mistakes, preventable complications and even death.” Tarkan added that a “survey by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit organization, found that 40 percent of hospital staff members reported having been so intimidated by a doctor that they did not share their concerns about orders for medication that appeared to be incorrect. As a result, 7 percent said they contributed to a medication error.”

Pearson and Porath (2009) say that a negative by-product of a toxic, uncivil work environment is that employees no longer feel psychologically safe, and as a result are less likely to seek or accept feedback. “They will quit asking for help, talking about errors, and informing one another about potential or actual problems” (pp. 81-82).

In the tragic case of Air Florida Flight 90, analysis of the black-box recordings revealed that the copilot tried several times to warn the captain of possible dangers. Unfortunately, the warnings of the copilot were dismissed as unimportant by the captain. Seventy-two out of seventy-seven people onboard, along with the copilot and pilot, died (Pearson & Porath, 2009).

Sound Bite: “Incivility doesn’t shock people into better focus. It robs concentration, hijacks task orientation, and impedes performance” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 155). What’s really alarming is that incivility can actually put lives at risk or even cause deaths.

References

Pearson, C., Andersson, L., & Wegner, J. (2001). When workers flout convention: A study of workplace incivility. Human Relations, 54(11), 1387-1419.

Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.

Porath, C., & Erez, A. (2007). Does rudeness really matter? The effects of rudeness on task performance and helpfulness. Academy of Management Journal, 50(5), 1181-1197.

Sutton, R.I. (2007). The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. New York: Business Plus.

Tarkan, L. (2008). Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive — and a Doctor. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/02/health/02rage.html

Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell

The American Management Association posts articles, white papers, and various other training materials for business professionals on its website. I came across this piece about a year ago (although it was originally posted in April 2007), that ties in quite nicely with Dr. Robert Sutton’s newly released book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss.” You can read my review of “Good Boss, Bad Boss” in my August 2010 post.

Below (in its entirety) are Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell:

  1. Treat employees with respect and dignity
    • Discuss personal and sensitive issues in private rather than publicly.
    • Get to know your employees as people rather than mere workers.
  2. Involve employees in decisions
    • Let employees know that their ideas are welcome.
    • Thank employees for their suggestions and use them.
  3. Empower employees
    • Delegate whenever possible.
    • Allow employees to have more of a say in how they do their work.
  4. Clearly communicate assignments
    • Communicate goals and expectations both individually and in writing.
    • Ask employees to restate the goals and assignments in their own words.
  5. Listen, listen, listen
    • Practice active listening techniques such as asking open-ended questions.
    • Learn how to probe for information, ideas, and feelings when speaking with employees.
  6. Recognize that your job includes solving “people problems”
    • Be prepared to address employee issues such as ineffective performance, health problems, family crises, substance abuse, and harassment from coworkers.
    • When necessary, seek counsel and involvement from professionals in the human resource department.
  7. Provide personal recognition
    • Catch employees in the act of performing well and provide them with recognition immediately, rather than waiting for the next performance review discussion.
    • Just like the best gifts to receive are those when there is no occasion, periodically thank employees individually for their hard work.

Reference

American Management Association. (2007). Are you the “Boss from Hell?” Retrieved from http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/Are-You-the-Boss-from-Hell.aspx

Book Review-Handbook of Coaching Psychology

For the past several months, I have been using Palmer and Whybrow’s “Handbook of Coaching Psychology.” It has becoming one of my “must-have, go-to books” when researching or referencing coaching or coaching psychology topics.

Coaching draws so much from psychology, and in fact, psychology serves as the foundation to many coaching practices (Fillery-Travis & Lane, 2007). However, there are coaches who practice without being informed by psychological research, and they end up using “frameworks of dubious validity” and are often engaged “on a psychological enterprise without a background understanding of the psychology used” (p. 59).

Palmer & Whybrow (2007) explained that, “[t]he key difference between definitions of coaching and coaching psychology is that the latter include application of psychological theory” (p. 3). A coaching approach rooted in psychology can provide a unified voice for a coaching based on and informed by psychology (Palmer & Whybrow, 2005).

It is for these reasons that the “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” carries such great importance. This book is the first of its kind, in both its depth and breath, in the field of coaching psychology. Offering insights on coaching psychology practices, the “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” covers topics including the evolution of professional coaching & coaching psychology, cognitive-behavioral coaching, solution-focused coaching, psychodynamic coaching, positive psychology & coaching psychology, person-centered coaching, the role of coaching psychology (between counseling & coaching), coaching psychology supervision, psychometrics in coaching, and much more. There are even sections in the back of the book on coaching and coaching psychology-related professional associations and journals.

One chapter I really enjoyed is Bachkirova’s (2007) “Role of Coaching Psychology in Defining Boundaries between Counselling and Coaching.” In it, she explained how coaching suffers from a definitional consensus while trying to reconcile the tenuous position it’s currently in – between coaching and counseling. Bachkirova (2007) said that “coaching psychology” serves a dual role. First, it is an attempt to clarify the role and boundaries of psychology in coaching. Secondly, it also serves as a bridge connecting coaching and counseling/psychology.

Summary: The “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” belongs on every coach or coach-in-training’s library. It is the quintessential coaching psychology bible. If you are a coach or want to become one, you owe it to yourself to utilize sound psychological theories to inform and guide your coaching practice. The “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” will help provide the strong psychological foundation you need to be an effective coach and ensure that your coaching skills are evidence-based and grounded in science.

References

Bachkirova, T. (2007). Role of coaching psychology in defining boundaries between counselling and coaching. In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners (pp. 351-366). New York: Routledge.

Fillery-Travis, A., & Lane, D. (2007). Research: Does coaching work? In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners (pp. 57-70). New York: Routledge.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (Eds.). (2007). Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners. New York: Routledge.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (2005). The Proposal to Establish a Special Group in Coaching Psychology. The coaching psychologist, 1, 5-12.

Coaching and Mental Illness

“Coaching is normally seen as an activity to enhance performance and achievement of goals” (Buckley, 2010, p. 394).

When coaches talk about clients in terms of mental health needs, these clients are better served by related fields like counseling or clinical psychology, not coaching or its cousin, coaching psychology.

There are many psychologists and other mental health professionals who have found coaching to be an appealing alternative to therapeutic practice. However, Anthony Grant cautions that these therapists-turned-coaches should not merely “act as a coach.” Instead, they should “develop coaching skills and psychological frameworks that go beyond existing clinical or counselling frameworks and applications” (Grant, 2006, p. 16).

Grant argues that in order for the field and profession of coaching to exist as a viable, independent discipline, it needs to differentiate itself from counseling and the mental illness, psychopathology model.

For coaches not from a mental health background (and even those who are) what follows should be required consideration in working with clients.

Peltier (2010, p. 304) asserts, “[C]oaches are not psychotherapists or doctors…[T]herapy is not their job.” However, coaches must still realize that in coaching sessions, they may be confronted with psychopathology. For this reason, it is important for coaches to be proficient in identifying clients who may need mental health counseling. On a related note, it is equally important for coaches to recognize their own need to be trained to spot mental health issues or signs of potential mental illness.

Peltier (2010) states that three mental disorders are most disabling and thus should quickly be referred to the appropriate mental health professionals. They are:

  1. Schizophrenia
  2. Bipolar disorder
  3. Dementia

* The three listed above (schizophrenia, bipolar, and dementia) usually require the intervention of a psychiatrist and a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
** For more details about these and other mental disorders, please consult the DSM-IV.
*** See Chapter 14 “Psychopathology and Coaching” of Peltier’s book “The Psychology of Executive Coaching” for a more in-depth coverage of this topic.

Peña & Cooper (2010) recommend referring coaching clients when the following mental health issues are present (this is not an exhaustive list, there are many more):

  1. High level of distress
  2. Persistent low mood
  3. Sense of hopelessness

Buckley (2010) states that when coaches are faced with mental health issues they should ask three questions:

  1. Can my coaching help? (Remember the purpose of coaching)
  2. What are my limitations?
  3. Should my coaching continue?

Buckley proposes a four-stage process to help guide a coach in making a decision:

  1. Recognize that some people may have mental health problems that make coaching inappropriate
  2. Understand the signs & symptoms of mental illness and be able to question the client further when necessary
  3. Understand the ethical, legal, and professional standards and practices
  4. Ask “What next?” Continue coaching, stop coaching or refer for medical help?

On the subject of coaching and mental illness, this statement sums it up best:

“Any diagnosis, treatment, ways to help or exploration of underlying issues is the province of mental health specialists and is best avoided” (Buckley, 2010, p. 395).

References

Buckley, A. (2010). Coaching and Mental Health. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The complete handbook of coaching (pp.394-404). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Grant, A.M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1(1), 12-22.

Peltier, B. (2010). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Peña, M.A., & Cooper, C.L. (2010). Coaching and stress. In J. Passmore (Ed.), Excellence in coaching: The industry guide (2nd ed.) (pp. 189-203). London: Kogan Page.

Understanding Psychometrics in Coaching

Psychometrics: The “science concerned with evaluating the attributes of psychological tests” (Furr & Bacharach, 2008, p. 8). The three most important attributes are: (1) type of data generated by the psychological tests (normally its scores); (2) the reliability of this data; and (3) the validity of the data.

In “Psychometrics in Coaching,” Jonathan Passmore (2008) said that while there is a growing number of instruments for use in coaching, a “surprising number of coaches do not know about the reliability or validity of the questionnaires they are using, or do not know about the theory or research evidence which underpins it” (p. 2).

When evaluating coaching assessments or instruments, Peltier (2010) suggests:

(1) Check the construct – “the basic concept that the instrument supposedly tests…Tests do not always test what they sound like they are testing” (p. 17).

(2) Validity – “Is this test measuring what it says it measures? Is it accurate? … Was this instrument developed for people similar to your client?” (p. 18).

(3) Reliability – Is the instrument stable? “Can you use it and get the same results that the designers get?” (p. 18). Are the results consistent when using with different types of clients.

(4) Standardization – Also known as norming. “To whom or to what is your client compared?” (p. 19) For example, a test that was created using a White, wealthy, highly educated as a norm group may not be as applicable to others.

References

Furr, R.M., & Bacharach, V.R. (2008). Psychometrics: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Passmore, J. (Ed.). (2008). Psychometrics in coaching: Using psychological and psychometric tools for development. London: Kogan Page.

Peltier, B. (2010). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

The Benefits of Coaching Employees

[NOTE: This post was updated August 2017]

What are the benefits of coaching employees? Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange offers some great reasons:

When organizations coach employees, benefits to the company include:

  • Overcome costly and time-consuming performance problems
  • Strengthen employees’ skills so you can delegate more tasks to them and focus on more important managerial responsibilities—such as planning
  • Boost productivity by helping your employees work smarter
  • Develop a deep bench of talent who can step into your shoes as you advance in the company
  • Improve retention; employees are more loyal and motivated when their bosses take time to help them improve their skills
  • Make more effective use of company resources; coaching costs less than formal training

When employees are coached, they:

  • Build valuable skills and knowledge they can use to advance in their careers
  • Feel supported and encouraged by their manager and the company
  • Experience the pride and satisfaction that come with surmounting new challenges

*Note: For an updated and more comprehensive list of the many benefits of coaching employees, read my 2017 post, “The Many Benefits of Coaching Employees.”

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership & Talent Consultant

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Coaching People: Pocket Mentor Series, Harvard Business Press

Business and Executive Coaching Buyer’s Guide

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) recently published a coaching guide. It appears that SIOP is trying to compete for a piece of the coaching pie by the language on the site, and I applaud them for finally doing so. For example,

“Effective [business or executive] coaching requires expertise in a wide array of fields including assessment, measurement and evaluation, change management, adult learning and development, leadership development, performance management, organizational behavior, and team dynamics. Because psychologists educated in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (I-O) have a doctoral degree and a thorough education in these fields, they are particularly qualified to provide effective coaching assistance.”

The language suggests that a good “coach” (in this case a business or executive coach, not a life coach) is one who is educated and trained in I-O psychology and the listing of things that add up to being an effective coach are taught in I-O programs. Good move I must say.

Under the first comment section SIOP makes an even bolder move by stating:

“Many people call themselves coaches, and their education may range from a one-day continuing education course to a doctoral degree from a major research university. (See the SIOP website for information on doctoral and masters level programs in I-O psychology.) Many organizations certify coaches although the meaning of many of these certification efforts is not clear. We believe the most effective coaches are well educated in the areas of I-O psychology listed above and encourage an organization to ask detailed questions about education and experience.”

Now, that’s taking your place in the coaching arena!

I also like their questions to ask a coach. And in the comment section warns those seeking coaching to, “Watch out for gimmicks and one- size-fits-all solutions. Make sure the coach is using tools that are valid, i.e., have evidence of their usefulness for their intended purpose, and appropriate for the individual and setting.”

In particular, I like these questions:

(1) What is your training and experience in the following areas?

  • Individual Assessment
  • Measurement and evaluation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Change management
  • Training and development
  • Organizational behavior
  • Team dynamics

(2) How much and what kind of experience do you have in organizations?

(3) How much and what kind of experience do you have in this industry and with
individuals in this role (e.g., line management, staff functions, professionals)?

(4) How many people have you coached?

  • How did you identify the problem(s) of the individual?
  • How do you assess the individual?
  • What tools do you use? What experience have you had using them?
  • What kind of action planning process do you use?
  • What kinds of developmental activities do you employ?
  • How do you evaluate progress? How? When?

(5) How (and how often) do you evaluate the effectiveness of your coaching?

(6) What ethics code guides your work?

  • How does the coach handle ethical problems?
  • Who is the client?

(7) What are your references?

In raising concerns about the definition of coaching (as a distinct, standalone profession) and about the credibility of coaches as well as an entire coaching industry that has sprung up, Grant (2007) raised an important consideration. He says:

“Because coaching is an industry and not a profession, there are no barriers to entry, no regulation, no government-sanctioned accreditation or qualification process and no clear authority to be a coach; anyone can call themselves a ‘Master Coach’” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

He goes on to say that there are so many “coach training organisations [sic],” some of which are nothing more than credentialing mills because after a few days of training and payment you can become a certified master coach. “[I]t sometimes seems as if ‘every man and his dog’ [can] offer a coach certification programme… making the value of such certifications highly questionable” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

I think it’s important to take heed of this piece of advice:

“Make sure that you take the time to find an individual (or firm) who has the skills and approach that works for your organization and your needs” (SIOP, 2009).

Disclosure: I am currently in an Industrial and Organizational Psychology program and am a member of SIOP.

References

Grant, A.M. (2007). Past, present and future: The evolution of professional coaching and coaching psychology. In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology (pp. 23-39). New York: Routledge.

SIOP. (2009). Selecting a Coach: What Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Bring to the Table. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/workplace/coaching/selecting_a_coach.aspx

Differentiating Coaching Psychology from Counseling Psychology

[Note]: This post is a reprint of my response in a LinkedIn group discussion in the British Psychological Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP). The original discussion question asked for responses regarding the differences between coaching and counseling psychology with the aim of defining coaching psychology.

COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY

In the U.S., the Society of Counseling Psychology (Div. 17 of the American Psychological Association) views counseling psychology in this manner:

“Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders.” (Div. 17 website)

Counseling psychology works with clients who require therapy to address issues (which can range from mild to severe). In my opinion, there really is not a clear distinction between counseling psychology and clinical psychology, as both can tackle various forms of mental illness. Because counseling psychology uses psychopathology (mental illness) and operates with that in mind, it is psychology for “therapy” or psychology for the treatment of mental health problems.

COACHING PSYCHOLOGY

Anthony Grant (2006) defines “coaching psychology” this way:

“Coaching psychology can be understood as being the systematic application of behavioural science to the enhancement of life experience, work performance and well-being for individuals, groups and organisations who do not have clinically significant mental heath issues or abnormal levels of distress.”

I like this last part of Grant’s definition because coaching works with healthy clients, not those needing mental health counseling.

Coaching starts with the premise that the client is healthy and works to enhance the client’s well-being and performance (in life and/or the workplace). If and when coaching clients do need “therapy,” the coach should be competent enough to recognize this need and the importance of referring these clients for therapy.

References

Grant, A.M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1(1), 12-22.

Society of Counseling Psychology. About counseling psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.div17.org/students_defining.html

Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance

[NOTE: This post was updated November 2016]

In “Leading Change” (1996), Kotter outlined an 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change:

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency: Examine market and competitive realities; identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
  2. Create the Guiding Coalition: Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change; get group to work together as a team
  3. Develop a Vision & Strategy: Create a vision to help direct the change effort; Develop strategies for achieving that vision
  4. Communicate the Vision: Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies; have Guiding Coalition role model the behavior expected of employees
  5. Empowering Action: Get rid of obstacles to change; change systems or structures that undermine the vision; encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions
  6. Generating Short-Term Wins: Plan for visible performance improvements or “wins”; create those “wins”; recognize and reward employees who made “wins” possible
  7. Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change: Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision; hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the change vision; reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
  8. Anchor New Approaches in the Corporate Culture: Create better performance via customer- and productivity-oriented behavior, more and better leadership, and more effective management; articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success; develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Professor Kotter (1996) shared about a time he consulted with an intelligent and competent executive who struggled trying to implement a reorganization. Problem was many of his managers were against it. Kotter went through the 8-stage process. He asked the executive whether there was a sense of urgency (Stage #1) among the employees to change. The executive said, “Some do. But many probably do not.” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22). When asked about a compelling vision and strategy to implement (Stage #3), the executive replied, I think so [about the vision]…although I’m not sure how clear it [the strategy] is” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22). Finally, when Kotter inquired whether the managers understood and believed in the vision, the executive responded, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many [people] either don’t understand the concept or don’t entirely believe in it [the vision]” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22).

Kotter (1996) states that when Stages #1-4 of the Kotter model are skipped it’s inevitable that one will face resistance. The executive ran into resistance because he went directly to Stage #5. Kotter states that in attempting to implement change, many will rush through the process “without ever finishing the job” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22) or they’ll skip stages and either jump to or only do Stages 5, 6, and 7.

Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn (2005) maintain that when employees resist change they are protecting/defending something they value and which seems threatened by the attempt at change.

Eight Reasons for Resisting Change (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):

  1. Fear of the unknown
  2. Lack of good information
  3. Fear of loss of security
  4. No reasons to change
  5. Fear of loss of power
  6. Lack of resources
  7. Bad timing
  8. Habit

To overcome resistance to change, make sure that the following criteria are met (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):

  • Benefit: Whatever it is that is changing, that change should have a clear relative advantage for those being asked to change; it should be seen as “a better way.”
  • Compatibility: The change should be as compatible as possible with the existing values and experiences of the people being asked to change.
  • Complexity: The change should be no more complex than necessary; it must be as easy as possible for people to understand and use.
  • Triability: The change should be something that people can try on a step-by-step basis and make adjustments as things progress.

There are 6 methods for dealing with resistance to change (and their advantages & drawbacks)*** (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005; Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979 & 2008):

Methods for dealing with resistance to change | Source: Kotter and Schlesinger's 2008 article "Choosing Strategies for Change"
Methods for dealing with resistance to change | Source: Kotter and Schlesinger’s 2008 article “Choosing Strategies for Change”

  1. Education & Communication: educate people about a change before it is implemented; help them understand the logic behind the change.
  2. Participation & Involvement: allow people to help design and implement the changes (e.g., ideas, task forces, committees).
  3. Facilitation & Support: provide help (emotional & material resources) for people having trouble adjusting to the change.
  4. Negotiation & Agreement: offers incentives to those who resist change.
  5. Manipulation & Cooptation: attempts to influence others.
  6. Explicit & Implicit Coercion: use of authority to get people to accept change.

***For additional (and quite valuable) information related to the six methods for dealing with resistance to change outlined by Schermerhorn and colleagues, there is a Harvard Business Review article by Kotter and Schlesinger (1979 & 2008). The 2008 article, “Choosing Strategies for Change” is a reprint of the same 1979 article. For better layout and graphics, I’ve referred to the 2008 article. I believe the six methods for dealing with resistance to change outlined by Schermerhorn and colleagues (2005) is based on or came directly from Kotter and Schlesinger’s 1979 article.

***In Kotter and Schlesinger’s 1979 HBR article (and in the 2008 HBR reprint) the six methods for dealing with resistance to change included the six approaches (e.g., education + communication, negotiation + agreement, etc.) as well as three more columns (commonly used in situations; advantages; and drawbacks). I found this to be especially useful and have posted a screenshot (above) of the graphic used in Kotter and Schlesinger’s 2008 HBR article. I would encourage readers to read Kotter and Schlesinger’s HBR article.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor

References

Kotter, J. P. & Schlesinger, L. A. (1979). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 57(2), 106-114.

Kotter, J. P. & Schlesinger, L. A. (2008). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 86(7/8), 130-139. Also retrieved from https://hbr.org/2008/07/choosing-strategies-for-change

Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Schermerhorn, J.R., Hunt, J.G., & Osborn, R.N. (2005). Organizational Behavior (9th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Helping to Bring Credibility to Executive Coaching

The profession of coaching has grown and continues to do so such that “nearly every age, occupation, and personal passion has a coach waiting to answer the call” (p. xiii). In particular, coaching is becoming a common part of an organization’s toolkit to help rank-and-file employees on up to top executives (Whitworth et al., 2007).

Much has been heralded (especially within the past several years) about coaching and its benefits. No, I’m not talking about sports coaching, but rather coaching applied to the world of business, also known as executive coaching. Because there’s no law (in the U.S.) preventing anyone from calling him/herself a “coach” or using the word “coaching,” executive coaching can sometimes seem like the old wild west. Research indicates that within the field of coaching, one of the fastest growing areas is in business (includes executive) coaching (WABC, cited in Stout Rostron, 2009).

It’s interesting to note that many who enter the coaching profession do so without any formal psychological training (Peltier, 2010). As such, they often question the need for this type of background. A 2009 Harvard study of coaching showed that only 13% of coaches believed that psychological training was necessary and almost half didn’t think it was important at all (Kauffman & Coutu, cited by Peltier, 2010).

However, the study also observed that even though coaches are only hired to help executives with personal issues 3% of the time, these same coaches, in fact, addressed a personal issue 76% of the time in coaching!

Stout Rostron (2009) maintains that while business coaches don’t need to be psychologists, they should at a minimum receive “practical grounding or ‘literacy’ in psychological theory” (p. 25).

While researching coaching textbooks, I came across the Institute of Coaching, an organization that aims to legitimize the field and practice of coaching by promoting coaching research, education, and practice. It is “dedicated to enhancing the integrity and credibility of the field of coaching.” Stout Rostron (2009) talked about the need to create empirical evidence on executive coaching and its impact. This is why I believe the existence of the Institute of Coaching will be a tremendous boost to help build that much needed credibility in the otherwise undisciplined field of coaching.

“The Institute (housed at McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and the world’s premier psychiatric hospital) is a way to build a robust international coaching research community and to support coaching research by providing research grants and mentoring to advance the practice and profession of coaching.”

The Institute of Coaching recently launched its own membership association called the Institute of Coaching Professional Association (ICPA).

MEMBER BENEFITS

ICPA members (annual subscription fee required) have access to peer-reviewed journals, networking and educational opportunities with leaders in coaching research, coaching demonstrations, and much more. ICPA offers three levels of membership—Affiliates, Founding Members, and Founding Fellows.

All members have access to:

  • Monthly Coaching Report
  • Extensive online resources including a library of research papers, white papers on best practices and return on investment, PowerPoints on many coaching relevant topics
  • Monthly live interviews, seminars, and coaching demonstrations with coaching leaders and researchers.
  • Online journal club
  • Journal subscription to Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research & Practice
  • Discounts on IOC events and professional development seminars

SEMINARS AND INTERVIEWS

Leadership tele-seminars, podcasts, and interviews will us better understand the mindset and expectations of the business leaders. Questions include: What do corporate leaders value about coaching? What are they looking for?

COACHING DEMONSTRATIONS

Coaching demonstrations will help you see coaching skills in action and learn the answers to important coaching questions. Coaches will describe the theory and evidence-based thinking behind the interventions they offer. The goal is to use theory and research to provide much needed “legs” for the practice of coaching.

COMMENTS

For those new to the profession of coaching (especially students like me), the benefit of watching coaching demonstrations is invaluable. This is a great way to learn by watching veteran/master coaches. When I was going through my counseling program, our professors made us watch videos of master therapists/psychologists conducting sessions. It was a way to connect what we learned via books to real life scenarios.

[NOTE]: ***I am not affiliated nor am I being paid to advertise the Institute of Coaching. I am merely passing along information that I think might benefit those who seek it. Thanks.***

References

Institute of Coaching. (2010). About Us. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/index.cfm?page=aboutus

Institute of Coaching. (2010). Welcome to the Institute of Coaching Professional Association! Retrieved January 10, 2010, from http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/index.cfm?page=members

Institute of Coaching. (2010). Coaching Research Network. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/index.cfm?page=network

Kauffman, C., & Coutu, D. (2009). HBR research report: The realities of executive coaching.

Peltier, B. (2009). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business coaching international: Transforming individuals and organizations. London: Karnac.

Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, K., Kimsey-House, H., & Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-active coaching: New skills for coaching people toward success in work and life (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.