"Three Clicks": What are realistic coaching outcomes?


The professional ranks today are filled with coaches of all kinds.  These include life coaches, career coaches, financial, spiritual, business and athletic coaches. In all coaching endeavors, it is wise to define desired and realistic outcomes at the beginning of the coaching process.

By beginning with the end in mind, establishing a common language and working backwards from desired outcomes, coaches are often able to add insight that the coaching client would not have obtained on their own, (or at least not as quickly)

For example, golf swing coaches are able to provide a unique perspective because of their objective external view. They enable their coaching subjects to get out of body to better understand what needs to be worked on in order to improve. And all golfers want to improve!

Likewise, management and executive coaches enable their coaching subjects to get out of body more quickly in order to improve, ie remove limiting behaviors. Very often we see people who are technically excellent at what they do. Almost always, the obstacles they may experience have to do with the people part and not the technical part.

What are realistic outcomes in professional coaching?

Ironically, the same things that made them successful in their careers to this point may be the same things that now limit their upward mobility. It is the wise coach who understands that their client subjects operate within a vocal range. All vocalists are born with a default vocal range that can be improved and expanded. However, it is very rare to expand their range beyond two to three octaves.
In other words, it is not realistic to expect an outcome beyond the person's range without damaging themselves.

Likewise, we in professional coaching we deal with people that have default positions with regard to personality and motivation. And it may be just as unrealistic to expect and outcome beyond that individuals range without unintended consequences.

Three Clicks:

In working with many management and executive leaders over the years, I have found that the most realistic and beneficial outcomes are those that move in a three-increment range aka three clicks.

The goal is not to take somebody from a 3 or 4 in EQ to a 9 or 10.  Doing so may take them so far away from their core capabilities that it is counterproductive, ie the unintended consequences of damaging their careers. However, when realistic and achievable goals are defined, the opposite is often true. And that is upward mobility as incremental movement has been demonstrated.

The goal is to move the individual who may be at 3 or 4, three incremental clicks up the scale over time.

        > Click one-  "Piercing the corporate veil", ie the initial understanding of the                                    current state during the first 30 days of the coaching                                                                engagement

        > Click two-  Ownership and transparent understanding of potential limiting                                   behaviors and co-creation of near-term goals, deliverables and                                                 accountability. Approximately within the first 60 days of engagement.

         > Click three- Demonstrable success in applying tips, tools and guidance                                          obtained in coaching mode. At least one or more "wins" to point to, ie feedback                       from reporting relationships, colleagues and peers. This is somewhat similar to                         when people notice something different about you as if you've lost 10lbs or have                       seem to have a new outlook.

In this way, our core strengths are maintained and we have demonstrated movement up the scale. The 4 may become a 5-6-7 and from the default position of 4 is quite noticeable indeed. In summary, please keep in mind that some of our most successful clients have walked this exact path to upward mobility.


What Do You See—Obstacles or Clear Sailing?

I have been working with many teams recently that are working on their vision and outlining their strategic goals for 2018. They know how to do a SWOT analysis, have a good sense of their customer base, and even take time to consider how they will communicate their messages. However, I see many of these organizations fail to hit the vision and goals they create in these sessions. Why? I believe the biggest reasons are:

           1.     Overly optimistic goal setting

           2.     Poor translation into action

           3.     Failure to understand how this impacts the daily lives of the team

           4.     It is an event, not a process

We use an experiential exercise we call the obstacle course with our clients. Here is the basic overview—we blindfold 3 people and then ask the rest of the team to get the 3 blindfolded people safely through the obstacle course and retrieve the 3 prizes and bring them back to the starting point safely! All three blindfolded people must enter and exit the course. The course is generally about 3 feet wide and about 6 feet long with foam letters and kids small toys in the course. The sighted people think that the course should only take 1-2 minutes to finish. We state that we will give them 10 minutes. Normally the sighted people huddle up without the blindfolded participants for about 2-3 minutes of planning time. Then they tell the blindfolded people the plan and they get started. Chaos ensues within one minute. There are often too many voices speaking at once, so it is hard to gather clear instruction.  In addition, trying to balance on 1 foot while blindfolded and stepping over kid’s toys is hard! So often, people get their left and rights confused when giving direction.

Does this sound like your workplace? This also sounds a bit like our strategic planning. We go off and brainstorm these great ideas with limited feedback from our employees. In the obstacle course debrief, I identify that the sighted people are the leaders in our organizations that can see what needs to be done and have to communicate the goals, but they are not the ones to do the actual work (these are the blindfolded participants—we call them employees.) From this activity, we see that the end goal does not look easy, but it does look like it can be executed. However, we rarely sit in the employee’s seat and look at it from their perspective. I encourage you to take time to ask your team members questions like:

1.     What inspires you about our vision?

2.     What barriers do you see blocking you from achieving our vision?

3.     What is one thing I could to do to help you achieve our goals?

4.     What is one thing that I am doing well that you want to keep doing?

5.     When we hit our goals, how do you want to celebrate?

Another common challenge is that as leaders we get distracted. We do this goal setting and then we go back to our daily lives. This causes confusion for our teams. Do we pay attention to the presentation we saw last month or do we just go with the status quo? Most people want to be led and they watch what gets rewarded. Thus, if they see you, the leader, go back to reinforcing the old strategies or goals, then they are going to deliver this to you. If you want to achieve the vision and new goals, it needs to be a process not a one-time event. One of my clients has started doing monthly virtual town halls to reinforce the new vision, key goals, and to celebrate successes. They are not over emphasizing the new vision and goals. Instead, they are saying this is the direction we are heading in and these are the type of behaviors we need to be successful. The leader also says what behaviors they are leaving behind. The energy in this environment is fantastic, and people are saying how transparent the organization is and that this is the most aligned they have felt in a long time.

So, what does your future look like—clear sailing or obstacles? It probably varies by the day. However, I encourage you to get curious, meet with your team members and listen to their feedback. Strategic planning is great but also remember to reinforce the goals and behaviors you desire on your team. Good luck and let me know how you are doing achieving your vision.


Do you schedule your exercise time? Dates with a significant other? Meditation? Thinking time? One to one meetings with your direct reports? Lunch?!

If I had it my way, then I would not have a daily schedule. I enjoy spontaneity and letting my energy dictate where I spend my time. However, with an awesome wife, 4 fun kids, fantastic customers and more ideas than time, I find I must schedule to get things accomplished. What about you? What do you schedule and what do you hope you have time for?

I am coaching a physician who leads a group of physicians who is always double and triple booked. I asked when did he find time to take care of himself, learn new information and have fun. He sheepishly answered almost never. I asked what he would say to his patients who weren’t accomplishing what they need to and he quickly said, “start doing this”. Thus, we started to schedule his work-out times, 1:1’s and even dates with his family members. Did this feel weird at first? Absolutely! However, he has lost about 10 pounds, gets to the gym about 4 days per week and has really connected with his family again. I can hear you saying, yeah but what about his performance at work. I can tell you other people in his organization have noticed and are asking what has changed with him. His attitude is fantastic, his ability to focus and make hard decisions has improved and he is cranking our much better work and loves connecting with his patients.

Is this all do to scheduling? NO!!! The most important first step was mindset shift. He had to stop putting everyone else in front of his own needs. Yes, he had to get a bit selfish to make sure he was able to be the best husband, dad, physician and leader. This was hard and there were excuses for the first couple of months. However, as he started to see success by scheduling these activities in, it got easier to do it more often and his ability to say no to lower level tasks improved as well.

Here are some tips to get you started:

·       Identify you key goals-personal and professional. Put these on the calendar first. This is easier if you look out about 2-3 weeks when starting out. Next week is already packed so it may be hard to start everything then. And yes, you should be scheduling time for personal stuff too. If it is not on the calendar, it probably will not get done.

·       Next, what are some things that you could stop doing or shorten. For example, take a 1 hour meeting down to 45 minutes. Do you still need to meet with every direct report each week? What about the project that just keeps going? Can someone else represent you in the meeting?

·       Schedule some thinking time on the calendar—this will improve your ability to prioritize and work on the big stuff. Also, think about your best times of the day and match your energy with the task. For example, I always have a sinking spell after lunch so I try to avoid tough meetings or conversations then. Friday afternoons are great for cleaning up the week and writing blogs.

·       Put some fun on the calendar. This might be recognizing your team, going out for ice cream with someone or a date with your significant other.

I know this sounds structured but see if it works for you and then make adjustments. Try to review your calendar at least weekly and look to eliminate 3-5 activities to give yourself some time for higher level activities. I believe you can survive without scheduling these activities but I think thriving and having an awesome life is hard without some of this structure. Good luck and let me know some of your best practices.


Time is the great equalizer.

We all only get 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week.  Whether you are leading a country, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or leading a global business, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, we all are allotted the same number of hours in a day:  24.

During those 24 hours a day and 7 days a week comes the highs and lows, successes and failures, experiences and missed opportunities that make up a life:  your life.

How we use our time matters.

Yet, most of my clients struggle with how to make their time count.

              “Where do I need to spend my time to have the greatest impact?”

              “I had a 90 hour week last week.  I can’t keep doing that.  I am exhausted.”

              “There is more work than I can manage.  I can’t get it all done.”

              “I want to spend more 1 on 1 time with my leaders, but I don’t have time.”

Sound familiar?

I know it does. Even though this is something I teach and practice, I still find myself saying out loud, “I could really use an extra three hours today.”  And it is true.  I could.

 The reality is this:

Our time will be spent.

The task before us is to choose how we spend our time.

The challenge we face is to choose wisely.

Here are two simple practices I use when my calendar heats up and I want more hours in a day:

1.      Pause.

2.      Prioritize.

When we get going quickly, we erase the most important asset we have: time to think.

Needing more time is a symptom of the Disease of Unmade Choices.  I am not going to get three more hours in a day, and neither are you.  We have to choose what we do with the time we have.  And the best lives and leadership emerges when we choose wisely.

When you find yourself wishing there was more time in the day, here are five quick steps to choosing wisely:

1.      Stop.

2.      Write down what you need to get done.

3.      Prioritize your list by Role and Goal.

4.      Put your top priorities into your schedule for the day/week.

5.      Acknowledge what cannot get done and take it off your list, either for now or forever.

Choosing how to spend our time is a powerful tool.  By choosing, we learn what we are and are not going to do, which enables us to the move forward, more quickly and accurately, to accomplish what is most important.  This is how we end up living a life in which our time was well spent.