This is my recent interview with Barry Zweibel, a Master Certified Coach, specializing in Executive Coaching and Life Coaching... he will be a joint contributor in the Coaching Series starting this week.
Mel: So Barry give me a little (or a lot!) about your background, your career, etc.
Barry: Well I earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, but didn't like the 'restorative' mindset of the field. Sure, everyone could probably benefit from therapy, but what about all the sane people who are smart, capable, and just happen to be stuck or unsure of a thing or two? At the same time, I was becoming increasingly interested in how you could take two people with the same background, same education, same competencies, put them in the same environment, and one would thrive and one would not. So I headed into the business world with that in mind, specifically Blue Cross/Blue Shield, where I got some solid supervisory/management training after a promotion or two. They then decided to reorganize into what they called the Full Service Concept. (The FSC organized around customer group rather than product.) Of course, with almost any initiative like this, pretty much everyone needed to move to a new desk (!!) and I started to notice that some people (with very similar backgrounds, education, competencies, etc.) were freaking out about this, while others handled their relocations with ease. Interesting, I thought. So, when the move was complete, I quit my job and entered the world of office space planning where I got to work with architects and designers and electricians, painters, movers, and (by the way) phone men, to manage the renovation of the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 500 company called GATX.
What fun! I learned gobs about both project management and the psycho-socio aspects of office relocations. The project (and process) went swimmingly, thank-you-very-much, but times were tough so they decided to cancel the final part of the project … and lay me off.
Looking for work, but with some very meaningful new accomplishments now on my resume, I landed a job with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in their telecommunications department. They were building a brand new facility and needed someone to manage the telecommunications part of the project. Hey, I might be able to do that I thought. Apparently, they did, too! Fast forward so many years of me riding the project's success and the waves of expansion that followed, and there I was, now vice president and ranking officer of telecommunications for the whole place. Very high tech. Very mission critical. Very high-profile in the telecom world.
While there, I got to play with all sorts of new technology (read: toys) before they even hit the marketplace. I also got to talk, at length, with all the Big Dogs from the different competing phone companies about whatever I wanted. Regardless of where the conversations started, they always seemed to find their way to rather engaging discussions about employee motivation, retention, productivity, executive presence, leadership development and the like.
Keep in mind, I wasn't a techie – I was a just guy who knew project management, logic, workflow dynamics, and a thing or two about soft-skill leadership. (Okay, I admit that I can be a bit of a geek sometimes, too!) With each new promotion up the chain, though, it became increasingly clear that I couldn't be a 'boss as expert'. I needed some other way to provide value-added back to my staff. That's when I found Chip Bell's book, Managers as Mentors, and thought, hey - maybe I could do it that way! So I did.
To my surprise and delight – and the surprise and delight of my staff and customers, vendor contacts, bosses, and Board members – it worked! It worked quite well, actually.
Other stuff got thrown in there – like being appointed by Mayor Daley to a private sector oversight committee when Chicago was revamping its emergency 911 systems and facilities, getting tapped to create and teach a class a Northwestern University called, Managing (the Human Side of) Mission Critical Systems, and managing through the whole Y2K thing. But the big shift for me was that coaching and mentoring had started to surface as a bona fide profession.
About that time a buddy who was running a dot com startup asked me to join his management team. "Doing what?" I asked. You tell me, he replied. So, I put together what I thought would be the ideal job – not necessarily what I thought I'd be most qualified for, but whatever it was that would have me wanting to jump out of bed each morning with delight. What I realized afterwards was that the job description I wrote was that of an executive coach! Well Patrick said he couldn't make that work for me, but it started a cascade of events that lead to me to start GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. – a business/personal life coaching business –, which I did on July 4, 2000 (Independence Day) and I haven't looked back since.
What do you find is the biggest struggle for people like me, who are seeking to make their life better, but unsure on where to start?
The BIG THREE limiters are:
(1) One's own negative self-talk
(2) One's family, friends, and colleagues who may mean well, but still manage to routinely undermine one's confidence, emotional well-being, and ultimate desire for change
(3) The self-limiting beliefs inherent in, and associated with, items (1) and (2)
Because of the BIG THREE, most people never even get to the 'where to start' question – it's as if they're "tasered" into giving up before they even get started. Very sad. Indeed, if you're stuck and not sure why, chances are one or more (likely all three) of the BIG THREE are nipping at your heels. Don't believe me? Try this: Put a 3x5 index card (and a pen) in your pocket or purse and carry it around for a week. Every time you hear some negative self-talk, someone else talking you down, or some self-limiting belief that's holding you back from thinking/feeling/doing something new/different/better, give yourself a little "x" mark. At the end of the week, tally things up and see for yourself how insidious the BIG THREE can be.
During our coaching sessions we focused on the future, not really focusing on the past, do you find this is the best approach, or is it something that we just did?
The coaching model I use has 5-steps:
Step / Primary Focus / Time Horizon
Step 1:"How are you right now?" / Present
Step 2:"What, in specific, do you want to address?" / Present-to-Future
Step 3:"What's holding you back from that?" / Past-to-Present
Step 4: "How can you get around that?" / Present-to-Future
Step 5:* "Let's Go!" / Present-to-Future
* We then repeat Steps 1-5, as needed, to get to where you want to be.
As the Time Horizons indicate, yes, the focus is decidedly NOT on the past. While the past is certainly fertile territory for a therapy-based conversation, it's basically just a context-providing device in coaching. "Okay, so maybe you've let some people get under your skin in the past," says the coach, "What do you want to do differently if one of them shows up and starts egging you on again? How would it feel own your personal power that way? What do you want to be sure to remember if you're ever in such a situation?" Call it honoring the past, while living in the present, and moving toward a desired future-state.
Do you find that people want you to solve their problems for you? How do you counteract that and make them focus on fixing the problems, or issues they face?
I tell them that coaching is not brain surgery – I don't put you under, do my thing, and then watch how amazed you are when you wake up cured! No, coaching is very much a participative activity – it's the client's job (not the coach's) to do the heavy lifting. My job, as coach, is to engage you in a conversation about … see Steps 1-5 above … and to provide you with the support and accountability you need to make better things happen for yourself … sooner than later.
One of the best strategies you taught me was the power of affirmations, all the negative self talk that had been plaguing me for so long, was hindering my ability to see the positive, what do you say to people who don't understand what you are trying to show them?
While affirmations can be quite powerful – and often are –, they are not the only way to dissipate negative self-talk. And sometimes what works exceptionally well for one person, doesn't work at all for another. People are just like that! But if I think that affirmations – or some other tool – might be helpful for someone, I'll start by raising the notion and then ask if the client would like to hear more about it. If not, that's fine. If not now, maybe later – just let me know. In the mean time, how about this other tool that's often quite helpful?! You see as a coach, my job is to offer alternate strategies, when needed – or engage my clients in developing brand new strategies that are exactly right for them – until we find some that work particularly well. Like life itself, it's an ongoing process. That all said, though, affirmations are quite unique in that they give voice to the person we want to be; the person we hope to become. They're also helpful in that they provide specific language – and technique – to reinforce the shift from one's self-talk feeling unmanageable/unchangeable to being inspirational and motivating.
What is the biggest challenge coaching?
I honestly don't look at coaching in terms of challenging or not – I just look at it as important that I be as meaningful with, and relevant to, my clients as I possibly can be. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it can be quite magical and magnificent!
Do you put the idealism that you have for coaching into practice at home?
On some days, absolutely yes! I especially love talking with my daughter (a high school senior) and her friends about the possibilities of life and the future they've yet to create for themselves. Adulthood – not to mention the college application process – can be quite daunting at that age. So I think they really appreciate being able to talk to a 'parental unit' about what's worrying them without it turning into a whole big thing. On more of a personal note, I have a whole list of things I'm still trying to do more of… or less of … or better with! Coaches are people, too, don't 'cha know! Fortunately, I have a whole slew of colleagues who are at-the-ready to coach me, when needed, or when I'm between coaches myself.
What are some simple strategies that we can all do to start focusing on making positive things happen for ourselves?
First and foremost, it's deciding that, "Yes, it's time and YES, you're ready!" Not as in maybe ready, or quite possibly ready, but really, in truly, ready! It's a mind shift, to be sure, but it's like anything else – to hit the target, you've gotta focus on the target. So what is the target? For some people, it starts with an ATTITUDE shift – that is, thinking/feeling about things differently. For others, it's more of a BEHAVIOR shift – doing something new or in a different way. Ultimately, both ATTITUDE and BEHAVIOR shifts are needed, but what's interesting, is that it often doesn't matter which you shift happens in which order – just that the shifts occurs. So, for example, let's say your self-esteem could use an upgrade. From an attitudinal perspective, affirmations can be quite helpful. (From a more positive mind comes the 'power' to do new and different things.) But doing more things that you naturally do well is an equally appropriate starting point. (Success breeds confidence.) Of course, the combination of ATTITUDE and BEHAVIOR is the ultimate goal, but where you start is typically far less important than that you start.
Coaching me, was sort of different, as I knew you for some time, how did that effect coaching, if at all??
Many coaches would disagree, but I think it helped, actually. You see, two of the most important ingredients in a successful coaching engagement are: (1) the 'readiness' of the client – which you clearly were; and (2) the 'competence' of the coach – which I mostly was (!!) But the SINGLEMOST important ingredient is the 'click' between the coach and client – which we already had! Indeed, whenever someone's trying to choose a coach, I suggest they look for the C-L-I-C-K:
• C stands for Contribution - How much did the life coach contribute to you meaningfully addressing the issue you brought to your initial conversation? What Next Steps do you see now that you didn't before? Can you see yourself enjoying an ongoing working relationship with this particular coach?
• L stands for Listening - Who did more of the talking, you (which is good) or the life coach (which is not as good). How well do you feel the coach understood who you really are? How well did the life coach's words resonate with you? What did you hear in your own words that sounded new? How helpful was the conversation?
• I stands for Intensity - What kind of energy was there on the call and how motivated were you by the life coach's style and approach? How engaged were you able to become in the call? What new thoughts, feelings, and insights surfaced for you that can speak to the value of the sample session?
• C stands for Connection - How aligned did you feel with the life coach? Was there an instant kind of rapport? How comfortable were you? How did you like the tone and mood of the call? Imagine what an ongoing life coaching relationship would be like with this life coach - how does that feel?
• K stands for "Kreativity!" - How good a job did the life coach do in getting you to see old things in new ways, or get out of you own way, or get back on track, or whatever? How motivated are you to WANT to work with this life coach on an ONGOING basis? How confident are you that this particular life coach can help you achieve your 'what' and 'how'?
Thank you Barry for doing this interview for me, I hope that others can learn from what we hope to accomplish and take away some small part that will make their lives better, like you did for me.
Starting next Monday, we will try to cover a new topic each week focusing on how to make you everything you want and shoudl be :)
For more information about Barry, or coaching, you can find it here.
info @ ggci.com