The Coaching Habit – a great book for everyone who leads

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay StanierThe Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier (CEO of Box of Crayons) is super practical, super funny and easy to implement immediately and in small chunks. In fact, he also has a video that goes with each chapter so if you prefer watching to reading you can still get all that practical advice without having to turn pages.

Who is The Coaching Habit for?

It’s for busy managers and leaders who want to be “coaching” their employees and helping them develop their potential. The key word is “busy.” Stanier provides seven questions for managers to ask and gives you scenarios to understand how asking these questions might play out. He makes you think about what moments might trigger the need for one of these questions, and help you prepare for how you want to coach differently.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of management and coaching books out there. If you’re like me, it makes you feel a bit panicky about all that knowledge you haven’t yet absorbed. This book is a great place to start and might be all you need for a long time! Stanier knows you’re busy, knows you don’t have time to implement huge complex changes. He even gives you some great tips about how to build your coaching habit so that it feels doable and really sticks.

Did I mention this book has a really fun readable layout is absolutely hilarious?

What is The Coaching Habit about?

Stanier suggests that most of us spend too much time in meetings or coaching sessions handing out advice that won’t get followed anyway. He recommends sticking with some concise questions to get to the real issue and solve that in less time. The seven questions are really simple (sometimes the most simple things are most effective right?):

  1. The Kickstart Question: What’s on your mind?
  2. The AWE Question: And What Else?
  3. The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you?
  4. The Foundation Question: What do you want?
  5. The Lazy Question: How can I help?
  6. The Strategic Question: If you’re saying Yes to this, what are you saying No to?
  7. The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?

You can be a great coach without letting it eat up your whole day. If you’ve felt overwhelmed with all the options, this book is a great place to start. Read it fast, try one thing today already and see how it works!

**The link to Amazon is an affiliate link!**

The Birkman Method Book & Free Personal Report

The Birkman Method Book and Personal ReportSo I’ve been doing this small series (see here, here and here) on how the Birkman Method plays out in our lives in order to get you excited about reading this book. The current CEO, Sharon Birkman Fink, recently published a book appropriately titled, The Birkman Method: Your Personality at Work and it includes a free personal report (I believe it’s a condensed version). I was sent a free autographed copy in exchange for a review. Since I already have my own report I would like to give this copy away to a reader! Now is a good time to be excited.

The book explains each of the eleven behavioral components that the Birkman Method measures as well as the interest scores. It gives you many great stories and examples of how people have used the information in their reports to solve problems and work more effectively. Even though I have my certification as a consultant, I found the illustrations so helpful in broadening my understanding of how this tool can be put to good use. For those who are unfamiliar with the Birkman Method, it is a great overview and introduction to the material and what you can do with it. You’ll find that it’s a quick, easy read.

I think my favourite takeaway from the book was a point repeated once at the beginning and once at the end:

While certain unique behaviors and customs are taught in different cultures, the more important underlying motivation and needs that drive people are shared around the globe. In other words, we humans are more alike than we realize, more similar than we are different. There is consistently more diversity within any one group than there is among groups (p. 10).

The difference among individuals in any particular nationality are much greater than any differences among nationalities (p. 155).

This is such an important truth for us to absorb as our communities and workplaces become more globalized and culturally diverse. It’s something we need to remind ourselves of, whenever we feel tempted to think in “us vs. them” terms. Underneath the cultural differences in behavior we might see, we are much more similar in our motivations and needs than we think. And that means that no matter how strange it might feel, it is possible for us to relate and connect with people anywhere on earth. In fact, we should seek to find those common bonds wherever we can.

If you would like to win my free copy of The Birkman Method and get your free personal report, all you need to do is leave a comment that interacts with this blog post. I will select a winner out of a hat and send you the book! If you would like to get a full Birkman report and enjoy a consultation with me, then check out my services page and contact me. You can also continue reading more about The Birkman Method on this page. You can also check out the beautifully redesigned Birkman website for more info.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention I am giving this book away on Monday the 30th! So you have until Monday lunch to leave a comment that will be entered into the drawing.

Sticking Points: 4 Generations Working Together

GenerationsBack in July, my good friend Marie lent me her advance copy of Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Hadyn Shaw. Now that it’s out and available for everyone, I wanted to let you all know that you need to buy this book now!

It’s a quick read and you can easily jump around as needed. Shaw provides a simple five step model for working through the sticking points: acknowledge, appreciate, flex, leverage, and resolve. In each chapter he provides an example of putting the five steps into action.

Especially important is the “flex” step. Shaw differentiates between business necessity and generational preference again and again, highlighting how often managers think doing things one way is a necessity when actually it doesn’t really affect business. He defines necessity as anything that will make you lose your foot, customer, money, or funding. Everything else is simply preference.

Each generation also gets a chapter that describes their “ghost stories”  or the formative events and experiences of each generation that consequently influence them in the work place. The second part details the 12 sticking points he discusses:

  • communication
  • decision making
  • dress code
  • feedback
  • fun at work
  • knowledge transfer
  • loyalty
  • meetings
  • policies
  • respect
  • training
  • work ethic

Some other interesting takeaways for me were:

  • Shaw explains that these days people believe you’re not an adult until 28 (both older generations and Millennials think this)! Instead of bemoaning how lazy and unambitious Millennials are, he points out that in the pre-war childhood of the Traditionalist generation, life on the farm offered you ways to contribute meaningfully and see the fruit of your labor from very early on. That’s simply not the case in today’s environment where meaningful contribution and seeing the fruit of your labour is sometimes assumed to only come after at least five years of paying your dues post-college.
  • He notes that parents treat their Millennial kids well (Millennials and their parents are often good friends) but then gripe about their Millennial employees’ behavior. He terms this the “half-step back” problem: when you start managing, you take a half-step back in to the older generation because that’s who trained you. So you manage from an older generational mindset than how you parent.
  • His main suggestion for leaders who are running into these generational sticking points is to forget trying to manage the issue with top-down policy decisions. Instead, gather a task force with a rep from each generation to hash out the “sticking points” your organization faces. They’ll come up with a plan that will have more buy-in from everyone.

I’ve read quite a few books on generations now and while Shaw can’t and doesn’t take the time to go into all the nuances of each generation, he definitely captures them fairly. As a Millennial, I especially appreciated this since so many articles and books about Millennials in the workplace tend to only paint us negatively. I highly recommend getting this and discussing it at your workplace!

Two Tips for Getting Clarity on Tough Decisions

Decisions I just breezed through Decisive by Dan Heath and Chip Heath (I’m on a Heath kick – John and I just listened to Switch and I have Made to Stick waiting on the bookshelf). It was another fun read! These guys tell great stories and also pack a ridiculous amount of practical advice into their books. Decisive is all about helping you develop a good process for making decisions.

I just want to give you two of the great tips they suggest when you’re agonizing over a decision. Heath and Heath talk about how our short-term emotions often tempt us to make decisions that aren’t good long-term. Maybe we’re scared of being embarrassed by failure, insecure about our talents, anxious about money, angry at our boss, infatuated with the person we just met or obsessed with an exciting business idea. Whatever the emotion, it can blind us. Distance helps us gain clarity which hopefully leads to a wiser decision.

Tip one for getting distance: 10/10/10

The authors suggest asking yourself how you’ll feel about your decision 10 minutes after making it, 10 months after making it and 10 years after making it. They use a simple example that also illustrates how short-term emotions can blow the importance of the decision out of proportion: A guy can’t decide whether to call a girl he met. Maybe you can imagine the agony of trying to get up the courage, wondering if he’ll be rejected, worrying about what to say etc. If he decides to call her how will he feel about that decision in 10 minutes? Maybe he’ll still be nervous but he might have gained some confidence about the fact that he’s taking action. How will he feel in 10 months? If the call goes well, maybe he’ll be so grateful he did because they’re now dating. If the call goes poorly, will he even remember it in 10 months? Probably not. The same can be extrapolated out to 10 years. Potentially the happy couple looks back at that phone call as the thing that started it all. More likely the momentary panic about whether or not to call the girl will be long forgotten.

This kind of distance helps us put our decisions back into proportion and can show us the “worth it” factor in our decisions.

Tip two for getting distance: “What would I tell my best friend to do?”

Simply switching shoes mentally with a friend helps us create distance from the emotions of our decision, allowing us to be more objective, just like our friends usually are when we spring crazy ideas on them. Maybe you’re tearing yourself up trying to decide whether or not you should take a job offer. Ask yourself, “What would I tell my best friend to do?” If you automatically think “I would tell her to go for it!” then consider whether you have your answer. Ask yourself why you would give that advice to your friend and what’s keeping you from giving that same advice to yourself.

If you have some decisions to make that feel daunting, this book is chock full of great ideas to make sure you’ve thought everything through as best you can. If you don’t have time to read the book, you can go over to their website, and register to access the first chapter, a one page summary and workbook (all for free!).

Do you have a favourite method for making decisions that helps you? What do you normally do to seek clarity?


In which my business goes “live”

After much delay, I finally have almost everything put together on my website and feel ready to announce that I’m open for business. My Calling IQ has become more than a blog. A week ago, I got my business license and today I finally decided to quit tweaking my website and officially hang out my shingle.

So what am I doing?

  • I am now offering consulting services to individuals, couples, and corporations using The Birkman Method. Read all about it here and see what I offer here.
  • I am available for speaking engagements and seminars/workshops on topics like calling, work & faith, knowing yourself etc. You can read more about this aspect of my work here.

Why am I doing this?

  • I want to be part of transforming the work experience and the workplace for people just like me. I have seen over and over again how applicable and relevant the Birkman Method material is to real life situations at work. The information in the Birkman reports is actionable in a way that most personality tests aren’t.
  • While writing a book on calling was great, I want to provide people with opportunities to interact with me directly (whether at a speaking engagement or workshops) in the hopes that sharing my experiences will help them on their own journey of pursuing their callings.
  • I’ve wanted to run my own business for a long time now and it feels like the right time for our family. Doing this work would allow me to contribute to our income while still being at home with Canon. I’m ready for the work-at-home-mom challenge.

I would love your help.

Do you know someone who is struggling with career frustration? Friends or family who aren’t sure what direction they should be taking? Acquaintances or colleagues that are stressed or burnt-out? Maybe you’re struggling with a manager, co-worker or your whole work team? Maybe you know event planners, chapel coordinators, retreat facilitators or other people who are often looking for speakers to bring in for events and meetings. I would love to work with anyone in these scenarios and:

I need you to spread the word. Emailing your friends and sharing my website on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or LinkedIn or Pinterest (have I missed any?) would mean a lot to me.

Want to test out my services before you start recommending them to your friends? I’m offering a two week 20% off promotion on any services purchased to celebrate my launch (ends Friday, June 7th). Simply enter the promo code “LAUNCHPARTY” at checkout!

Seriously friends, it would mean a lot to me if you took the time to share my information with anyone you think could benefit.

Have questions? Leave a comment!

What is the Birkman Method?

Maybe you popped over to the website when I first mentioned I was becoming a Certified Birkman Consultant but maybe you didn’t. I wanted to just give you a brief overview of the Birkman Method today because it will probably take me awhile to get my website updated to include all the services I am so excited to offer.

Birkman MethodWhat is the Birkman Method?

The Birkman Method is a behavioral assessment (not a personality test) that simply shows you what you do. What makes it unique is that this assessment shows you:

  • Your usual behavior (your positive style/your visible strengths)
  • Your motivational needs (which can be quite different than your usual style and may be invisible to others) and
  • Your likely stress behaviors when your needs remain unmet

Personality tests and other assessments tend to stop at the first one: they describe you and that’s it. Maybe they describe a few of your potentially negative stress behaviors as well but they’re missing a key piece of the puzzle: what your actual needs are.

This kind of information is extremely valuable for your own self-awareness, for your personal relationships and for finding your ideal work environment. The Birkman Method can give you neutral language to discuss areas of conflict and differences of style with your spouse, child, manager, colleagues or teammates. Without judgment, the reports give you information about how to get the help you need to operate mostly out of your strengths (usual behavior) and minimize and manage your stress behaviors.

I often find it just as helpful to understand what an assessment does not promise to do.

The Birkman Method WILL NOT:

  • Tell you WHY you behave the way you do
  • Make a clinical diagnosis
  • Measure emotional maturity or mental health

This tool has been around for 60+ years and was developed by a former WWII Bomber pilot named Roger Birkman. He’s 94 years old and apparently was still coming into the office until just a few months ago! The assessment has an 94-96% accuracy level for validity and reliability of the results and the company has ongoing longevity studies that show your results are unlikely to change much over time (barring highly traumatic experiences). That means you really only need to take it once. I took it for the first time at 17 or 18 years old (about the youngest recommended age for taking it) and I still find my results are a very accurate reflection of what I do.

What do I want to do with it?

As you might guess, I love the Birkman Method for its insight into motivational needs, occupational interests and the level of self-awareness it can bring to your relationships and work. I am picturing using this method and the wide variety of reports it delivers with:

  • College students wondering what to do with their lives
  • Engaged or married couples who would like some extra tools for building a great relationship
  • Teams that need or want a boost reaching their potential in working together
  • Managers and employees who want or need to improve communication and working relationships
  • Anyone working through career frustration and transition

I see this tool as providing a safe space for helping people address behavioral differences neutrally and also break down some of the generational, cultural and gender stereotypes we often run up against. In an interview with Dr. Birkman, he summarized his desire for the Birkman Method as a way for people to learn to accept and love themselves, see God’s love and purpose in how he made them, and then celebrate the diversity and potential in everybody else they meet (you can watch that interview on youtube – warning: it made me tear up in a couple spots).

How do you take it?

Contact me! Right now, you can just shoot me an email if you’re interested in taking this (or use the contact button above). We can discuss cost (I’m still figuring out all the pricing options!) and then it’s as easy as sending you a link to a questionnaire and scheduling a feedback session (in person, over the phone or on skype) to review and discuss your reports. The questionnaire takes about 45 minutes if I remember correctly and provides you with a hefty report (seriously, people we’re talking 50+ pages of different report options).

Soon, I will hopefully have a link to the questionnaire right on the website and have an info page with the different options available.

UPDATE 6/11/15: If you’re ready to get your Birkman report, here are your choices!

  • Sale On!
  • Sale On!
  • Sale On!



Monday Link Round Up

Just a couple links to share with you today.

First off, an excellent blog post by Pastor Richard Dahlstrom on the balance between Grace and Truth – an issue I feel like I continually run up against. Here’s just a quote,

Too much truth seems to presume that the time is always now, and the messenger is always us. Too much grace seems to presume that the time is never now, and the messenger is always someone else.

and you should read the whole thing here. I’d love your thoughts on this. It’s something that I think we have such a hard time putting into practice well.

Second, a very practical two part blog series by Chris Guillebeau on Getting started working for yourself. As usual, he’s got loads of practical advice to share. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, you should definitely be mining this blog and reading his guides and manifestos.

The first one is here and the second one is here.

If you ran across some great articles this weekend, feel free to share them in the comments! Have a great week!

September Wrap-Up

Hi Friends,

I can’t believe September is already ending. In Seattle, it’s been crisp and sunny the last few days. A perfect combo. I love fall. Afghans and tea, good books and movies, candles and turning the fireplace back on after the summer. For the weekend, I have some great articles to share with you. We’ve been covering different stories of calling (mostly in Genesis) this month and here are a few more stories that highlight aspects of calling.

This article called “Spreading the Good News” talks about how Johannes Gutenberg’s calling affected the world.

For my peer group, you might relate to this writer’s “Quarter-Life Shipwreck” and what she’s learning through the experience.

And a beautifully written article that highlights how different a job can be when it’s a calling rather than just a career, “Doctor vs. Healer

And lastly, not a story, but I’d love to get your thoughts and perspectives on this 5 part article by Skye Jethani as he explains what he would do if he was starting a new church. The third point obviously resonated with me the most but the series starts here.

Hope you all have a cozy weekend! If you’ve read some great articles you also want to share, feel free to do so in the comments.

Friday Link Round-Up

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

In honor of an extra day to hang out and relax, I thought I’d post links to some of the great material I’ve read this week for your weekend reading enjoyment. I’m constantly amazed by how the idea of calling connects to life in so many different ways. I see connections everywhere (that might just be me) but here’s a sample for you. If you have any great articles of your own to add, feel free to post links in the comments section!

Pastor Richard Dahlstrom talks about delayed or “downsized” dreams on his blog.

My friend Anne wonders if teaching is really her calling here.

Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner writes about finding balance in her gym class but how it’s applicable to so much more on her blog.

Relevant Magazine has a great article about how necessary failure is in our lives, which reminds me of J.K. Rowling’s excellent commencement speech at Harvard several years ago (in fact the article quotes that speech).

And if you’re feeling in the mood to dig into an interesting book, I would highly recommend Deep Economy by Bill McKibben. Written before the recession, his words seem even more applicable now as he writes about how to return to sustainable living through local or “deep” economies which would create many more opportunities for us to follow our callings in the local scene.

Thoughts on Calling: Friday Link Round Up

Welcome to June everyone! I’m looking forward to the summer because I’m in the process of collecting a bunch of real-life interviews from some really cool people on the topic of calling! I’m excited to share their insights.

I’ve been reading some interesting, thought-provoking material across the web as usual, and quite a few things recently have touched on following your calling. I wanted to share some of these with you for your weekend reading and viewing enjoyment!

Pursue your calling, not your potential – Mark Driscoll (video)

Driscoll makes a great point that we get caught up in all the things we could do, instead of focusing in on the things we’re actually called to, “Here’s what happens for those who don’t have a sense of calling: they exchange busyness for fruitfulness.”

History is His – Gary Thomas

Thomas provides a great quote by D. English to chew on. I especially love, “We are most fulfilled not when we seek fulfilment but when we seek to find our proper place in his never-ending purposes for this world. We are both less and more important than we think.” 

Spiritual Gifts and Practice – Bill Mounce

This is a great story about following your calling even when you second guess yourself. Mounce writes, “But just because you are called and gifted doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot of hard work ahead of you.” He thought he couldn’t possibly be a speaker and teacher, but he encourages others who question a calling they’ve received that, “Gifts and calling have to be nurtured, developed, practiced.”

Gifted Hands (movie)

My go-to movie recommendation team (my parents) gave this one high marks, so John and I checked it out of the library and watched it this week. It’s the story of Dr. Ben Carson, the famous neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Like the story above, this movie also shows discipline is required. My librarian mother especially loved the fact that Dr. Carson’s mother required his brother and him to read two books a week and write reports for her. This simple requirement is portrayed in the movie as the reason he was able to turn around his grades, realize he could be a good student, end up going to Yale and turn into one of the best neurosurgeons in the world.

While we often talk about doing what you love, there are plenty of things we don’t love, that we should be taking the time to develop and hone anyway. Dr. Carson had incredibly hand-eye coordination that made him a great surgeon, but he would never have become a good surgeon without becoming a good student first. Our perceptions of our gifts, abilities and interests are likely to change over our lifetimes, so it’s important not to write things off just because we initially don’t like them.

If you’ve seen some great articles recently that highlight different aspects of calling, share the wealth and post the links in the comments!