Cheryl offers: Have you ever had one of those experiences where you complete something and think “Well, that was OK, but it didn’t quite hit the mark; and I’m not sure why I feel this way?” Well, it happened to me with the blog a few days ago by the same title, only it was part 1 and I didn’t realize it at the time. Something kept bothering me about that blog. I felt like I was missing a point, something really important. Then it hit me out of the blue while I was not really thinking about it at all. What was missing is this. The phrase “Help me understand” is about having the person asking the question understands or learn more. Or as is often the case, it is about them having an idea of what the answer should be and seeing if by talking about it more, you can figure out what they think you should know. The focus of the conversation is on the person stating the phrase. In a true coaching relationship, it’s the opposite! The coach does ask questions, but not for their own education on the topic. In fact, when we train leaders to be coaches, we direct them to avoid the topic and keep the conversation focused on the coachee. True coaching questions are designed to facilitate the learning for the person being asked. This is the direct opposite of the phrase “Help me understand” intent when the learning is asker centered. This is what was tickling me from my unconscious. In a true coaching relationship, the focus of the listening, the questions, and the energy is all on the person being coached. So, when a person says they want to have a coaching conversation and then ask to be educated, just know this is NOT a coaching conversation. Maybe this is why many people are insulted or put off by the phrase.
And you know how that came to me out of the blue? I bet everyone reading this has had this experience. Annie McKee discusses this in Resonant Leadership. Our brains need to rest so they can be truly creative. When we rush about working frantically, then try to think clearly, most of us find it difficult to easily select that best answer. When we allow ourselves down time and rest, our brains have the energy and space for creativity. Rest is essential to great leadership.
Cheryl offers: Last week Randy sent me a link to an article “Are We There Yet?” This Newsweek article by today’s generation of female writers challenges the progress made since the early 1970’s by a similar group of frustrated young female writers. Both have found their ability to make significant contributions to their employer, based on more reasons than there is space here to list. Did you know that last year men wrote all but 6 of Newsweek’s 49 cover stories? And that comes from a company and editorial staff that is 49% female. Odd to say the least; particularly considering a quote from Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book, The Female Brain, “Until eight weeks old, every fetal brain looks female. A huge testosterone surge beginning in the eight week will turn the unisex brain male by killing off some cells in the communication centers and growing more cells in the sex and aggression centers.” She goes on to explain women actually have 11% more neurons for use in language and hearing. Now, I’m no journalist. Most of you have figured that out if you read my blog. But it does seem to me that listening and hearing would be really important to investigating and interviewing people; then being able to write a magazine article. And it seems that increased capacity for language, the basic blocks of writing, would make women even more qualified for being great writers. It was actually the little note at the bottom of the last page that caught my attention. “Like this article? Subscribe to Newsweek…” I believe my answer to both will be No.
Cheryl offers: There’s a lot of debate in the media right now over whether or not more women in the upper ranks of the financial leadership files would have prevented the current economic situation. In most of them, women and men seem to get “labeled” with all kinds of characteristics, usually stated as if they were fact based on profound research; usually they are not. Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said. “The truth is a great mind must be androgynous” and I tend to agree with him. This infers a great mind would have both female and male characteristics (the best of both worlds so to speak). In Daniel H. Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind – Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future” he proposes the idea we are moving from the Information Age, dominated by an economy and society built on logical, linear, and computer-like capabilities (think left brain hemisphere and robotic traders on Wall Street) to one called the Conceptual Age characterized by inventive, empathetic, big picture thinking found primarily in the right hemisphere of the brain. Hmmm…makes me wonder if he’s not correct! How different would our world be if the financial world had not been driven so much by numbers and had instead considered the long-term big picture with an empathetic view on the potential impact on those being affected? This is neither a male nor female view of the world. It’s androgynous and requires the whole brain to be engaged. Research has repeatedly proven more women in upper ranks of leadership will produce better financial and qualitative results. I vote for androgynous leadership rather than new financial laws!
Sara is out of the country on business.