Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to Create a Coaching Culture

There's a quiet revolution happening in organizations.

Until recently, helping managers and employees improve their ability to perform was the responsibility of HR staff, corporate trainers, consultants, and hired professional coaches. If you asked a supervisor what he or she was doing to help team members be better team members, the typical answer was, "That's not my job."

But why shouldn't a first-line supervisor want to help direct reports get better at what they do? For that matter, why shouldn't team members help each other perform better? It would only make their jobs easier!

The answer is that they don't know how to play that role. They have no confidence in their ability to coach someone who is trying to improve.

The solution presents itself in Thomas G. Crane's book, The Heart of Coaching, 4th Edition. The vision and purpose of the book is to help organizations establish a coaching culture, in which people at all levels take an active role in helping others in the organization work on improving skills.

The Crane's transformational coaching model has three simple phases: Foundation, Feedback, and Forwarding-the-action. Crane is a superb writer, and he clearly describes what's involved in each of these phases. The latter part of the book delivers all the how-to instruction and tips anyone would need to be effective in the coaching role.

Imagine the benefits to an organization if it successfully established a coaching culture! Learning would be so much easier. Performing at a high level would become commonplace. Human interactions would be mutually supportive. Who wouldn't want to work in an environment like that?

If this possibility excites you, I strongly recommend that you read and study The Heart of Coaching, one of the best business books of 2014.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Thursday, March 26, 2015

3 Signs of a Healthy Team

Is your group a strong, healthy team? In this guest post, some insights from Quinn McDowell, a writer who knows a lot about teams.


The key to any healthy relationship is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Teams are a complex web of relationships that must be nurtured and developed. Nothing undermines team chemistry more than deceit and dishonesty. A good coach understands they must communicate on three unique levels: with their team, their players, and the player’s parents. There are literally hundreds of different relationships when you take into account these various levels; players to players, coach to players, players to parents, parents to parents, and coach to parents. These subsets of communication have a huge contribution to the overall culture of the team.

The coach is the most important cog in this communication vortex. Coaches must maintain consistency across this spectrum by setting clear expectations and making a habit of telling the truth. “Truth-telling” often requires the courage to present the reality of difficult situations; although difficult at times, honesty is always the best policy when dealing with tough issues like playing time, tryouts, a players role on the team, etc. Players and parents can choose to disagree with content of the coach’s communication, but if the coach has reliably communicated the truth with all parties involved, then his/her credibility will remain intact and team culture will remain healthy.


A counterfeit will always be exposed. Coaches, players, and parents owe a level of transparency to one another when they make the decision to function as a team. One example of how transparency can undermine trust is when I was part of a team where the coach told us that our captains would be selected by a team vote. After the votes were counted and the captain was named, it was clear that the coach had already decided who was going to be captain and the votes had little input into the decision. The problem is not that coaches shouldn’t pick captains, but that the entire process lacked transparency. If the coach had told us from the outset that he was going to pick the captains, this would have been highly preferable to leading the whole team to believe our votes had an impact in the decision.

Another example for how parents can practice transparency would be communicating with a coach in advance when their child will miss practice or a game because of family obligations. I've seen many parents lie or withhold the truth from the coach in order to protect their child. Then at the last minute the parent will spring a surprise absence on the coach before an important game or week of practice. Transparency builds trust and trust is essential to healthy teams.


Over the course of the season, players must learn to trust in their coach’s leadership and a coach must learn to trust in his/her player’s character. Mutual respect is the bedrock of healthy teams so that when the inevitable storms of a season arrive (i.e. losing games, injuries, gossip, etc) the team is able to survive the challenge because they trust and respect each other.

The deep-seated belief that everyone on the team has the group’s best interest in mind is a powerful sedative against the craziness of a season. The best teams learn to insulate themselves against the outside influences that would seek to destroy their chemistry and pull them apart.

Trust grows out of transparency and truthfulness and is the cement by which healthy teams are built. Sports have the rare ability to expose our deficiencies and grow our character which forces a team to either create a bond of trust or allow personal shortcomings to divide the team. Team togetherness and trust are one of a few things that you have complete control over. The season provides the time and context for teams to learn to trust each other and come together, or splinter as individuals. Trust depends on the character, consistency, and selflessness of everyone involved. The coach sets the tone, but the players and parents build the culture. What type of a culture will your team build?

Quinn McDowell is a writer, trainer and professional athlete. He has played in the NBA D-League, Australia and Spain, following his four-year career at the College of William and Mary. He is the founder of and desires to see coaches and players succeed with excellence. He currently resides in Palencia, Spain, with his wife Lindsey.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hear Judy Robinett Talk about Being a Power Connector

I have posted about a fabulous new book, How to Be a Power Connector, by Judy Robinett (The No. 1 business book of 2014, according to Inc. Magazine). It is, quite honestly the most useful, professional life-changing book I've ever read.

If you haven't read it yet, you can get a great preview by listening to this podcast interview, in which Judy talks with Mike Wong about the main concepts of the book.

By the way, Mike Wong's "Business Insights" podcast series is an amazing resource. Each interview lasts only 25-30 minutes, and literally dozens of experts have spoken on quite a diversity of useful topics. Check it out!

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Need Money to Launch Your Business? Judy Robinett Can Help You Find It

Judy Robinett
Recently I was rereading Judy Robinett's best-selling book, How to Be a Power Connectorwhich was named by Inc. Magazine the "No. 1 Business Book" for 2014. In addition to being the author of the best book about networking ever written, she is in fact a world-class networker herself.

As I was reading her book for the third time, halfway through the introduction I was stopped by a sentence which explains that she is much more than the author of this book:

"I am a consultant specializing in putting early-stage companies in front of angel and venture capital investors."

Then I watched this video, which she made for In six minutes, she gives the most practical guidance for finding money I've ever seen.

For small businesses to succeed in finding the right kind of funding, Judy recommends that you have to prepare well, create a concise and compelling pitch, and present it in "the right room."

I've known about incubators, angel investors and venture capitalists, but Judy mentions some sources that were new to me: family offices and crowd-funding.

She also encourages entrepreneurs to ask for help. If you're a start-up, maybe you should start with Judy

About her book...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure - Get That Righteous Feeling

I was once in a meeting with some colleagues when I used the word "ensure" in the context of making sure something happens. To my surprise, a woman in attendance corrected me on the spot. She said I had confused "insure" with "ensure." The Duke Ph.D. in English part of me rankled at this, and I told her that while the two verbs have similar connotations, their meanings were the opposite of what she said. But she held her ground over this interesting point of grammar. I realized she had a strong need to be right, and with an open mind said, "You may be right," and let it go.

Today, 30 years later, I remembered this incident. Don't ask me why. At my age a lot of off-the-wall memories pop into my mind. Maybe my life is flashing before my eyes.

So just to be sure, I googled it, and the top-rated grammar website happened to be my favorite: If you're ever concerned whether you're about to make a fool of yourself by misusing the English language, I highly recommend it. Search for the issue, or get the book and keep it close.

It's amazing the mistakes people make, especially news and sports announcers. Book authors not so much; they have editors to keep them straight.

Here is what Grammar Book says about assure vs. insure vs. ensure:

Assure is to promise or say with confidence. It is more about saying than doing.
Example: I assure you that you’ll be warm enough.

Ensure is to do or have what is necessary for success.
Example: These blankets ensure that you’ll be warm enough.

Insure is to cover with an insurance policy.
Example: I will insure my home with additional fire and flood policies.

So. I was correct. And even better, I restrained myself from arguing about it at the time. I just love righteous memories.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .