Tag Archives: Coaching

The Letter of Our Lives

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.
2 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV)

Wherever you find kindness, love, and generosity you will find those willing to take advantage of that kindness, love, and generosity. In the day that Paul was writing his letter to believers in Corinth, the followers of Jesus had gained a reputation for being generous toward those marginalized by the society of that day including lepers, widows, and orphans. They also had a reputation of taking up collections for traveling teachers like Paul.

It wasn’t long before con men and teachers with selfish intent began making the rounds. The result of being swindled was that these local gatherings of Jesus’ followers would expect traveling teachers to bring a letter of recommendation from someone they knew and trusted. Eventually the con men began forging those letters of recommendation and it became an on-going problem.

Paul picks up on this situation and uses these required “letters of recommendation” as a word picture. The believers of Corinth were his letter of recommendation, Paul argued. The “proof” of Paul’s ministry was the changed hearts, the transformed lives, and the growing spiritual maturity of those in Corinth in whom Paul had invested his time, teaching, and mentoring.

This morning I’m pondering this metaphor of our very lives, and the outcomes of our lives, being a letter read by everyone around us. When people look at the outcomes of my life, my words, my actions, and my relationships what are they reading? What does my life “recommend” to others? And what’s does my influence on others “recommend?”

Yesterday I went on site with our client and ran into a young man who’d started on the front line of their sales and customer service department. I trained him from his first days on the phone and coached him for a number of years. He was promoted to another team I worked with and then got a promotion to field sales. I haven’t seen him for years. He happened to be in the home office yesterday and when he saw me his face lit up. Unexpectedly he came over and gave me a big hug. It made my day. It was rewarding to know that my coaching has made a small contribution to his success.

I sit here in my hotel room prepping for another day of coaching. I’m reminded of the “letter” I’m writing in myself and others today. I want it to be a positive letter of recommendation.

The Fragrance of Presence

 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV)

I’m on the road on business this week. I’ll be coaching three different teams of people over the next two days. I meet with these individuals every 2-3 months. In my job I often have the opportunity to be around people whom I only see on occasion. I come into their offices for a day or two, work with their team, and then I am gone for months at a time.

Early in my career I learned the importance of making the most of my visits. I don’t want clients to think, [rolling their eyes] “Oh great, it’s him again.” I want people to be happy to see me. While there will always be those who don’t like me (or perhaps they don’t like the process of being coached), the truth of the matter is that I have a lot of control over how people react to me with my dress, my demeanor, my facial expressions, my enthusiasm, my words, my conversations, and my actions.

This is not something that I take lightly. In fact, it’s motivated by more than good business. It is truly a spiritual motivation for me. I know that our jobs and working in our offices can so often be places where people feel like they get the life sucked out of them. I’ve literally had people tell me in coaching sessions that they feel like they’ve slowly been “dying” day-by-day in their jobs. Ugh!

When I’m working with clients I often think about the word picture Paul gave to the followers of Jesus in Corinth. I want my presence to be the fragrance of life for the people I work with. Many already experience the stench of death every day. I want my presence to bring something different to their environment. I want their spirits to sense the fragrance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness. I want them to feel better when they leave our session than they did when they walked in.

I  know I’m not always be successful. I have my days like everyone else. But I always think about it on days like today when I’m preparing to go on-site. I don’t want to stink up the place. I want to have the opposite effect.

Boiled Down to Bullet Points

bullet pointsHe has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (NIV)

I am on the road training this week. When our group analyzes a company’s phone calls, we methodically tear it down into a ton of behavioral and analytical data points. When sharing the data with Customer Service Representatives and translating it into actionable training points I find that the sheer volume of data and the machinations of our analytical process can easily overwhelm them. As I walk through the information, I sometimes see my client’s eyes glaze over and I know that I’ve lost them.

Over time, I’ve learned that many individuals simply need things boiled down for them. They don’t want lengthy explanations or an exhaustive review of all the data. They just want the Cliff Notes, the Reader’s Digest condensed version, the bullet points, or the crux of the matter. The client I’m working this week has well over 50 different data elements that we measure in their phone calls, but in my training this year I’m only talking about the five things that matter most.

Life and faith can sometimes be like that. God’s Message is a lengthy tome assembled over centuries in different languages. The contents are arranged categorically rather than chronologically. Some of it is history, while other parts are poetry and song lyrics. Other parts are letters and some of the stranger bits are prophetic messages in poetic form. It can be confusing to find and grasp the larger storyline. Sometimes we just want things boiled down into a bullet list.

God’s message through the prophet Micah does it nicely in today’s chapter:

  • Act justly (e.g. do the right thing by God, others, and yourself)
  • Love mercy (e.g. love tangibly, forgive continually, give sacrificially)
  • Walk humbly (e.g. be considerate of others; put their needs ahead of your own)

A Tale of Two Agents

source: johnjoh via flickr
source: johnjoh via flickr

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10 (NIV)

I was recently with a client providing call coaching for a team of agents. In these coaching sessions the client’s front-line agents join me in a small conference room with their supervisor. We review the agents service quality data and listen to recorded calls between the agent and their customers that my team had analyzed. On this particular day, I was coaching several young agents I had never coached before, and it was as if one of Jesus’ parables was coming to life before my very eyes.

There were two agents…

The first agent came into the room confident and smiling. She was bright and confident. When I asked how it was going for her with her calls, she immediately recounted what the data had revealed about the strengths and weaknesses of her service delivery. She had obviously been paying attention, had taken responsibility to go out and review the information available to her, and had digested the data and recommendations. When I played her recorded calls and then asked what she thought, she quickly picked out exactly how she could have improved and explained what she would have done differently if she had the chance to do it over again. When the agent left the room I expressed to the supervisor that I was impressed. “She won’t be on my team long,” the supervisor said. “With her attitude and work ethic, she is going to go places quickly in this company, and she should.”

Before the second agent came into the room the supervisor explained that this particular agent always demanded the last session so that she could put it off as long as possible. When the agent came into the room I could tell from her physicality that she was defensive and did not want to be there. I tried to break the tension. I pulled up the service quality data that had shown a recent trend toward improvement and complimented the improvements. “I don’t know why I improved,” the agent mumbled, “I haven’t done anything differently.” We listened to calls together and when given the opportunity to self-critique the agent simply responded with “it sounded pretty good to me.” In one call, the agent responded to a customer’s question with “I don’t know anything about that” despite the fact that the agent clearly knew the answer. When asked why she didn’t answer the question the agent shrugged and said, “Yeah, I probably should have. I don’t know. I just didn’t.” After the session was over, the supervisor looked at his watch to see how much time was left in the agent’s shift, explaining “She won’t get anything else done today. She watches the clock for the last hour of the day so she can be out the door as soon as the second hand hits twelve.”

I thought of these two agents when I read Jesus’ words this morning. I have observed countless times over the years that the difference between successful people and those stagnate in their careers is usually a small handful of things done faithfully and done well.

Here are seven qualities I’ve consistently observed in those who succeed:

  • Showing up early (or at least being at your post and working on time)
  • Doing the job faithfully
  • Dealing with people honestly
  • Approaching things positively
  • Handling yourself professionally
  • Keeping productive and busy in slow times
  • Going the extra mile without being asked/required

 “If you are faithful with a few things,” Jesus said, “You will be put in charge of many things.”

Honestly Flawed

confessionThen David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” 1 Chronicles 21:8 (NIV)

I have spent many years coaching professionals. My job is to help them become a better communicator on the phone. We listen to the employees calls together and then I help coach them on strategies for improving the customer experience in that call.

Coaching has taught me a lot about human nature and behavior. There is a stark contrast between those who are willing to admit that they have a lot to learn and those who refuse to do so. When listening to their own calls, most people are quick to hear things they could have done better and will admit it. There are always a few, however, who will cross their arms and steadfastly hold claim to perfection while blaming me for suggesting otherwise. I have been cussed out, yelled at, given the silent treatment and threatened by individuals who refuse to admit that they might be less than perfect and might have a thing or two to learn about communicating with customers.

One of the things I’ve learned about David, what marks him as a “man after God’s own heart,” is his honesty about himself and his own blind spots. He could be stubborn. He could be foolish. He could make tragic mistakes. Yet every time he was confronted with his mistakes or realized the error of his ways, he immediately confessed his wrong doing to God, asked God’s forgiveness, and sought to change his ways and make it right.

Being honest about your own shortcomings and failures is the first step to rising above them.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 9

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. 
      Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. 
Proverbs 9:7 (NLT) 

One of the tasks I have in my job is to sit down one-on-one with people, listen to some of their phone calls, and help them learn how they can do a better job serving their customers. It’s not rocket science, but companies recognize that when a customer calls with a question or a need there is moment of truth taking place. That customer will walk away with a distinct impression of the company based on how that associate handled the call. So, I help them make it as positive an interaction as possible.

As you might imagine, I have coached a diverse number of people. Some of them are “mockers” who clearly do not want to be there, listen to little or nothing I have to say, and refuse to change even the simplest of behaviors. I’ve been cussed at, threatened, insulted and had people turn away cross their arms and refuse to look at me. I’ve learned over time that there is little I can do for some people other than to provide them the information as clearly and positively as I can without reacting to their negative behaviors.

Fortunately others are open, teachable and desire to do a great job. They are willing to listen to my feedback and genuinely try to change their behaviors.

I couldn’t help but think of the different people I’ve coached over the years as I read of Wisdom contrasting those who are “mockers” and those who are “wise” in today’s chapter. I’ve seen the difference and I understand why she advises not wasting your time with certain people.

When it comes to work I am paid to coach everyone and to do my best to communicate even with those who will refuse to listen. When it comes to life I have more latitude to focus my time, energy and conversation in relationships that will bring life and fill life’s well. The older I get, the more discerning I become with regard to whom I will interact.