Check out this guest blog by coaching expert Jennifer Lopez, and learn more about our new Deep Dive, “The Effortless Coach.”
Have your experiences with coaching focused on compliance and performance or compassion and growth?
Research is moving us all toward a new view on coaching. One that sees human possibilities, not human weaknesses. One that allows us to achieve sustainable results.
Yet…what comes to mind when you think of coaching?
For many of us, when we go into coaching conversations, the goal is behavior change, and it’s usually centered on what’s not working. And when we want results, we want to implement the change quickly to meet the goals outlined by you, your leaders, or your organization. The intent is to move the person to improve, but only in relation to external motivators and the needs of the organization. And while the overall goal of coaching is meant to have behavior change and positive outcomes, this approach may get a temporary fix, or even no fix at all, because it’s focused on weaknesses and induces feelings of fear and anxiety.
What comes to mind when you think of compassion?
When you think of compassion, it’s likely you are thinking of it from the place of suffering. We have compassion toward another by noticing and responding to his or her pain and distress. This is one vital way to gain an understanding of the person across from you, especially in a coaching conversation. It’s important to be able to see the person behind the behavior; to understand that each of us has a story, and how we are making decisions and taking actions based on the information available at the time.
When moving into Coaching with Compassion, we take an expanded view of both the coaching relationship and the idea of compassion. Rather than being highly focused on compliance to our desires, we recognize the other person’s values, needs, and wants. We want to see the individual flourish, so extending compassion includes empathizing with him or her on the desire for growth, development and overall well-being.
Why does this matter?
Because we want lasting behavior change, and we want true alignment. Alignment based on compliance isn’t focused on the whole person, their values, perspectives, wants, and strengths. It’s only focused on what we want or need out of them, so it lacks true and authentic change. When we not only have compassion for another by understanding their pain and struggles, but we want to hear and honor their dreams and hopes, this is the ground for a transforming shift in the coaching relationship that brings real and long-lasting behavior changes.
So, how do you make this shift in your coaching—moving beyond the idea of only eliminating something wrong or broken to bringing a sense of possibility, and enabling something new to emerge?
The key is to focus on engaging and balancing the PEA (Positive Emotional Attractor) to the NEA (Negative Emotional Attractor).
The PEA triggers positive emotions like hope, mindfulness, compassion and playfulness (Coaching with Compassion), while the NEA triggers negative emotions like fear, anxiety, shame, and guilt (Coaching for Compliance). While we need NEA to face challenges and survive, we need PEA to maintain openness to new ideas, see possibilities, and ultimately to thrive.
If we want sustainable results, we want thriving. And because NEA is so much stronger, largely due to the constant pressures that add up in a day, this means we need to activate PEA at least three times more than NEA to combat the effects of negative experiences.
When coaching, we can create these opportunities by asking questions that focus on moving the individual toward her dreams and desires (their Ideal Self), recognizing core values, and giving more attention to strengths rather than weaknesses.
Because we’re trained from the time we’re young to solve problems, and we gravitate toward fixing weaknesses more than focusing on strengths, it takes more positive emotional experiences to create the balance we need for effective change.
Negative emotions and our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) are aroused all day long by little stressors that add up, like forgetting your cell phone, being stuck in traffic, losing an important communication, constant emails and messages, etc. This constant activation leads to anxious thoughts and feelings, exhaustion, and potentially burnout, which closes us off to potential and possibility.
That means, in order to balance this constant pressure, we need to include positive events that arouse our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) anywhere from three to six times for every negative event. Experiences that get positive emotions flowing create an opportunity for renewal include mindfulness & meditation routines, spending time with a pet, playing with your children, taking a moment to breathe, thinking of someone who’s helped you along the way, and exercise. All of these experiences arouse the PSNS, the part of our brain that opens us up to new ideas and possibilities—exactly what we want if we want someone receptive to change.
Here is a quick break down of the PEA vs. the NEA
So, while we do need NEA, because it can be a catalyst for change, and helps us to solve problems and complete tasks, the PEA is what brings the sustainable, desired change. If we know the ratio of PEA to NEA is generally to be at 3:1, and we want resonant, engaged coaching conversations, we must also realize that emotions are contagious.
This means that shifting into PEA-focused coaching starts with you. If emotions are contagious, and you’re coming from a place of compliance, judgment, “should” mentality or you’re suffering from your own imbalance of negative over positive emotions, you will affect the other and it will be much more difficult.
As a coach or leader, it’s essential to be aware of your own need to activate the PEA.
Consider the experiences you have on a daily basis, and how often you are truly experiencing positive emotions in relation to those constant daily stressors. If those stressors are present, that means you have to counter them with a continuous cycle of renewal. You’ll need to intentionally engage in experiences that ignite your positive emotions and keep you open-minded and feeling a sense of hope, and overall well-being. You will notice that as you engage in your own renewal practices, it will become easier for you to activate this in others.
Before you enter your next coaching conversation, monitor your own PEA and NEA experiences for one week.
Throughout each day, notice when something arouses your positive or negative emotions. Write down what you were doing and was happening, who was there, etc. Just notice and observe for now. At the end of the week, you’ll be able to look at the experiences, and begin to notice where patterns emerge, your positive and negative emotional triggers, and what balance you hold in PEA to NEA. This insight will give you a chance to see what new patterns you can create to 1) sustain your balance if you are in PEA more than NEA, or 2) develop ways to enhance your positive emotions in your daily life.
You want to remember that coaching is a process and takes time. It’s not a one-and-done event.
Your main goal is to unearth the good and possible, uncover and honor the individual’s desires, values and strengths, not hunt for what’s wrong, not working or needs fixing. You want to meet the person where they are, and create a positive and safe atmosphere that ignites PEA and opens up learning.
Being mindful of your own renewal practices is key to bringing more positive experiences to your coaching conversations, as well as having a good set of questions and practices to engage PEA with your coachee.
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Guest Blogger – Jennifer Lopez – A leadership coach, organizational consultant, and corporate executive, Jennifer Lopez has 20 years of experience with organizational change. She is a community advocate for families and children. As a trustee of the Children’s Museum of Cleveland, she develops strategies to engage the community and generate enthusiasm for its mission. This work also allows her to fulfill her passion of creating safe spaces for children to learn and play. She holds a Master’s degree in Positive Organizational Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University, the birthplace of Appreciative Inquiry. She studied with pioneering leaders in the fields of Resonant Leadership, Coaching with Compassion, and Emotional Intelligence. She is the wife of a jazz musician, mother of five glorious children, and a devotee of compassionate leadership as a means of bringing out the best in people to create thriving teams and organizations. She loves finding great ways to reframe work and life, using a unique approach of celebrating the chaos that is often around us and reconsidering our own approach to the challenges that find their way into the lives of busy leaders. Learn more about Jennifer at lovehowsheleads.com and follow her on Instagram here.
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