Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Chicago Claim Conference

Just got back from two days at the Chicago Claim Conference where I spoke about coaching and mentoring in the workplace. It was the 36th year that this conference has been held. That says something about the stability of the insurance industry.

I was pleased by the opportunity to speak. And although the majority of the conference was about the functional aspects of the medical, disability, and life insurance businesses, the conference organizers felt it important to also have a set of presentations about the human resource and personnel management side of things. My presentation, "How to F.R.A.M.E. the Coaching Conversation" was one of them. (Well, actually, it was two of them - I spoke on both Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and was one of the few presenters to speak more than once.)

Here's the blurb they used to promote my workshop(s):

As Yogi Berra once said, "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else." That's what it's like trying to coach and mentor an employee when you don't have a clear understanding of the art, science, and discipline of the coaching and mentoring process. Barry K. Zweibel, CEC, MBA, a certified business/personal life coach and President of GottaGettaCoach!, Incorporated, facilitates this interactive session and explains how to have the right conversations, in the right ways. Understand what makes coaching really work from the perspective of the person being coached. Identify the next steps for you to improve your own coaching and mentoring capabilities. Explore a 5-step coaching model to help F.R.A.M.E. your coaching and mentoring conversations from this point forward.

Things went well and attendees at both sessions gave me very good 'grades' on their evaluation forms. But there's always some tweaking you can do when speaking, so I was particularly gratified to be able to take my Lessons Learned from Day One and apply them the very next day in the second session. Not only was that a great enabler of my own growth and development, it was HUGELY fun!

So bravo to Jase DuRard of the conference's Education Committee for having the foresight to allow that to happen. And thanks to all of you who attended my presentations.

Now, take what you learned, and go coach one of your direct reports today - your own growth and development is waiting!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Tiger Woods and "Mary had a little lamb"

A client shared a wonderful insight with me yesterday as we were 'rehearsing' for an important conversation he needed to have with someone. We were looking at each component of the conversation in a very detailed manner, working on the precise phrasing to serve him best. I think it was a little uncomfortable for him at first because I was forcing him to be so deliberate about it.

But then it came - the light bulb moment! "I get it!" he shouted. "It's like Tiger Woods!"

It is?! Uh-um, I mean, RIGHT, it IS! How so?

"Well, when Tiger practices," he continued, "he's very conscious of each and every element of his game. He OWNS the details and doesn't quit until he gets them exactly right. And he does this so that when it's tournament time, he can let his UNconscious take over - so he can just play his game ... without getting too tense ... without getting too mental.

"So he does this thing where right before he hits the ball, he sings a bit of 'Mary had a little lamb' to himself. It's his way of getting out of his own way so that his autopilot can take over.

"That's what we're doing in this conversation, aren't we, Barry?" he asked. "We're locking in the details now so when I actually have this conversation, I won't over-think it; I won't be too tense; it'll just flow, right?!"

Honestly, I hadn't thought about it that way before. But it made sense. And I see an even broader applicability of this Lesson Learned ... for myself! I'm speaking at a conference next week. I've prepared well. And I'm ready. But now I'm even more ready because on my way up to the front of the room on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, I'm going to be singing a little nursery rhyme to myself ... and then just let the presentation flow!

... it made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school!

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

More Needed than Good Work

On Friday, May 14th, the University of Chicago hosted its 52nd annual management conference. A major theme: It's not enough to do good work.

"Reputations flourish not simply because you do good work but because people tell stories about your good work," reported Ronald Burt, professor of sociology and strategy." Simply put, the more people talk about your good work, the better your performance reviews (and raises and bonuses) will be. This is especially true when others talk about your good work to people in different parts of the company. It seems that when this type of information crosses department boundaries, it's seen as significantly more credible and newsworthy and naturally boosts your reputation.

But how can you get someone else to talk about your achievements like that? Well according to Burt, it also seems that 'network entrepreneurs' - those who talk to people in many different areas of the company - are part of many different interpersonal networks and as a result, are thought to be smarter and more creative than most. That also tends to translate into better performance reviews (and raises and bonuses).

So if you're looking to improve your reputation, it seems that there are three important steps to take:

Step One - Do good work.

Step Two - Start talking about your good work to those 'network entrepreneurs' so they can start talking about it too.

Step Three - Become a network entrepreneur yourself and start talking to people outside of your direct area of responsibility. You can easily start by asking others who they see as particularly smart and creative in the company and then go from there.

Mid-year reviews are coming. So don't delay.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Scrubs, White Coats, and TMI

This just in from the BBC News service ... Doctors 'should wear white coats'.

"Most patients want doctors to wear white coats - but medics do not share their enthusiasm, a survey suggests." Patients like them because it makes doctors easier to spot. But only one in eight of the doctors surveyed at Royal Free Hospital in London actually wore a white coat, preferring to wear scrubs instead. "Seven out of 10 doctors felt the coats spread infection while six out of 10 found them too hot and uncomfortable." "There is also the phenomenon of white coat hypertension where a patient's blood pressure can go soaring when they spot a doctor wearing a white coat," said one doctor.

Now I can understand the hypertension thing. I mean who hasn't gone into a tricky vendor, customer, or executive meeting to find your counterpart wearing his/her very best power suit? If that doesn't raise your blood pressure, nothing does! Clothes really DO make a difference.

I suppose I also understand the 'hot and uncomfortable' thing, too. Bulky coats as opposed to way-comfortable scrubs? No contest.

But a full 60% of the doctors surveyed said that their white lab coats attributed to the 'spread of infection'? What's THAT about?

Well, it turns out, that it's about laundry. Turns out that doctors feel it's easier to wash their scrubs than it is to wash their white coats, so ... And get this ... They don't wash their white coats as often! Yikes, that's what I call TMI - Too Much Information. Better they'd just come clean (if you pardon the pun) and say what they know to be true: Doctors think it's cool to look like they work in the ER.

There's nothing really wrong with that, in my opinion.

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Happy Mother's Day!

What a great day to bring her waffles in bed!

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Vocabulary Acumen

How's your grasp of the English language? Wanna see? If so, here are 100 words considered likely to be on this year's SAT test, according to Kaplan, Inc. a leader in test prep, admissions, and tutoring.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Rewards, Incentives, and Unintended Consequences

Sometimes, in an effort to motivate our staffs, we set the bar a little too high or in the wrong place entirely. And as a result, it has the exact opposite effect as intended.

Consider the sales manager who offers that fabulous all-expense-paid trip to anywhere to whoever reaches a certain sales figure. Great idea, except if that sales goal is unrealistically high. Then the so-called incentive becomes a DE-motivator.

Or how about the manager who schedules an after-hours celebration party for his/her project team? Sometimes that's a real nice way to say thank-you, but if your team has been working hellacious hours, maybe requesting that they spend even more time away from their families to party with people they've already spent way-too-much time with isn't all that much of a thank-you after all. Maybe a day-off, or even a late-arrival would be more appreciated.

It's great to be able to offer incentives and rewards, but before you do, think through the Unintended Consequences they could have. Don't be wrong for the right reasons.

Remember: it isn't just that you're providing these opportunities that matters; it's how well they are received-as-intended - that's what really counts.