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Focus on your strengths to get ahead farther and faster

July 17, 2008

Many times lawyers tell me they want to hire a coach to be sure they are making the right investments of time and energy to build their practice.  Should they be writing articles?  Presenting?  Taking contacts out for lunch?  Attending networking events? 

It all comes down to the central question:  What activities are going to be the most effective?

The answer to that question is going to be different for every lawyer.  One of the first steps I do when I begin working with a new coaching client is to conduct a strength analysis. 

Why the focus on strengths? Because by focusing on what we are good at we start ahead of the game. We all come into this world with a unique set of talents, and over our lifetime with the addition of experience and learning we establish a foundation of knowledge, skill, and ability. The winning strategy is on maximising your strengths. Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week puts it this way:

It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor. The choice is between multiplication of results using strengths or incremental improvement fixing weaknesses that will, at best, become mediocre.

If you have never done a strength analysis then think of it as a detailed answer to the question: What am I good at and what have I got going for me? I have an article posted on the cooperative Canadian weblog Slaw.ca with a short list of questions that can guide you in conducting your own strength inventory. Who do you know? Do you enjoy writing or presenting? The answers to these and other questions begin to form your inventory of strengths.

In addition you can try taking the free VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire found on the Authentic Happiness Web site. You have to register (free) on the web site in order to access the test. This test will indicate your top 5 strengths. It was developed by Professor of Positive Psychology Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. Thanks to Alexander Kjerulf and his blog Chief Happiness Officer for passing on this tip!

Your goals provide the directions and your strengths (and values!) make up the foundation for your business development efforts. The right moves so often take advantage of the resources you have at hand, the people and contacts you have in your life, and your natural abilities, drive, and motivation.

 

Posted in: Business Development, coaching, Strategy | Permalink | No Comments →

New report on coaching released by the American Management Association

July 14, 2008

A new study on coaching prepared by the American Management Association has some valuable information for law firms planning to launch coaching programs and for individual lawyers who are thinking of hiring a coach.

The study is very well researched and provides an up to date report on what’s working for coaching in organizations.  You can download the report from the Canadian Management Centre website here:  http://www.cmctraining.org/whitepapers/?wp_id=22

One highlight from the study looked into the most important factors in determining the success of a coaching engagement: 

“The strongest correlations were found between coaching expertise and coaching success and between personality and coaching success. In general, this suggests that companies that match based on the coach’s expertise or based on complementary personalities are more likely to report successful coaching programs.” 

In other words, retain coaches with experience that matches your needs and interview the candidates to ensure you find a coach who fits your personality. This just seems like common sense.  If you are a lawyer looking for practice development coaching then you are best retaining a coach with experience in the legal field and practice development and interviewing them to find out if they are a good “fit” for your personality. 

Don’t feel like downloading the report?  Here is an excerpt of the some of the other key findings from the study:

Finding One: Coaching is used by only about half of today’s companies. In the
North American sample, 52% report having such programs in place, and, in the
international sample, the proportion is 55%.

Finding Two: Coaching continues to gain in popularity. Among respondents
who say their organizations don’t yet have coaching programs, a sizable proportion
(37% in the North American sample and 56% in the international sample) say such
programs will be implemented in the future.

Finding Three: Coaching is associated with higher performance. Correlations do
not necessarily imply causation, but respondents from organizations that use coaching
more than in the past are also more likely to report two kinds of advantages:
1. They’re more likely to report that their organizations have higher levels of
success in the area of coaching.
2. They’re more likely to say that their organizations are performing well in the
market, as determined by self-reports in the combined areas of revenue
growth, market share, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

Finding Four: Coaching is primarily aimed at boosting individual performance.
The desire to improve individual performance/productivity is the most widely cited
purpose of coaching.

Finding Five: Clarity of purpose counts. The more a company has a clear reason
for using a coach, the more likely that its coaching process will be viewed as successful.

Finding Six: Evaluating coaching’s performance may help boost success rates. The
more frequently respondents reported using a measurement method, the more likely
they were to report success in their coaching programs.

Finding Seven: It pays to interview. Having an interview with the prospective
coach has the strongest relationship with reporting a successful coaching program.

Finding Eight: It pays to match the right coach with the right client.Matching
people according to expertise and personality seems to be the best strategies.

Finding Nine: External training seems to work best. Externally based methods of
providing training on coaching are most strongly correlated with overall coaching
success, though they are less often used.

Finding Ten: Coaching’s international future looks bright. Compared with the
North American sample, organizations in the international group have not had
coaching programs in place for as long, but more in this group plan to implement
coaching programs in the future.

Finding Eleven: Peer coaching needs to become more effective. Although a little
over half of responding organizations use peer coaching, only about a third of
respondents who use it consider it to be very effective or extremely effective.

Posted in: coaching, Leadership | Permalink | No Comments →

Fast Company expert on coaching

June 20, 2007

For those of you who are interested in learning more about executive coaching or are thinking about working with a coach Fast Company’s blog site features a helpful introduction to coaching by Grace Andrews.

Andrews writes in her post Executive Coaching – Fuel or Folly?: 

I believe that the answer to this question comes down to who is selected as the coach and how the selection process is structured. Just like most things you search for, like a good doctor, dentist, hair stylist or mechanic, it generally comes down to how well you know what you want and how good you are at researching who is the real deal versus who is a quack.

You have to be careful.  I agree with Andrews that it is important to have a clear goal for what you want to get out of coaching and that you find a coach whose approach best suits you.  She also provides a great list of questions for you to ask your potential coach, here are a few of them:

1. Tell me about your coaching process and philosophy? (Here, you are looking for a feel of what type of coach the person is and the length of the process, time commitment, and frequency of meetings. Also probe for some of the tools and resources the coach might use.)

2. Give me an example of a previous coaching experience that you would consider a success and what made it so?

3. How would you describe your coaching style?

4. How do you measure success? 

In addition to the questions she recommends I would say look into the coach’s background.  What education and training have they received?  How much experience do they have?  What references can they provide?  Try out a couple of coaches.  Many coaches will provide you with a short sample session.  It’s a great way to find the coach that will work best with you.  The key to achieving powerful results is in the relationship you form with the coach.  It is essential to have a strong foundation of trust, respect, and communication.  Don’t settle for less!

 

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