What Does It Mean to LEAD?

What Does It Mean to LEAD?

Anyone who is in a position of “leadership” has no doubt at one time asked themselves this question.  Just because a person has a leadership position does not mean they actually know how to lead, and we have all experienced one of these individuals during our professional careers. Over the course of my professional career, I have read hundreds of books on leadership, heard thousands of hours from speakers and experts on this topic and experienced my share of good and bad leaders.  Leading to me is “OPPORTUNITY.” 

Each morning a leader has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those they lead.  Being a leader is about the opportunity to “serve” those who look to us as leaders.  Serving is just the tip of the iceberg.  Just below the surface is “our character.”  It is tough to live out a false character or wear a mask every day.  Our character is based on our values and our beliefs.

My professional business tag line is:  “Know what you believe and why you hold that belief.” I still remember the day and the client when this sentence came out of my mouth during a coaching session in the form of a question.  I asked my client this:  “What do you believe about “X”?”  The client’s eyes widened, and their mouth fell open, and there was a long, long period of silence.  Then I very carefully asked:  “Where did that belief come from?”  For a coach, this was one of those once in a lifetime moments when a huge light bulb went off in my head that I had hit on a “GOLDEN QUESTION” which unlocked my clients and still does to this day.

Keeping up a false belief, and actions become exhausting, and cracks begin to show.  Our character shows up in our “behavior.”  Haven’t you ever wondered why there are people in positions of power who are known liars, leakers of sensitive information, and spreading untruths, and still they hold places of leadership?  [I am not talking about a politician here, but rather about those in leadership in business.]

If you are not currently leading in your professional life, how would you like your leader to lead you?  This is a clue as to how you should lead when you do get into a position of leadership.  Developing relationships with your team requires you to listen.  Listen to learn not listen to reply.  Spend time with those you lead and get to know what is their specific learning type, response type, how broad is their bandwidth, what is going on in their lives outside of work and so on.  If you lack in some specific knowledge or skillset, wouldn’t you love for your leader in investing in your professional development?  Sure you would.

A leader must also be able to course correct, develop new methods, develop their own leadership and this is hard.  A leader has many things pressing in on them daily, but these things are vital to keeping up with the fast pace changing technology and the global business environment we all work in.

For many leaders it is just about the numbers, the financial bottom line; however the bottom line, the numbers, and goals cannot be met if those driving toward them do not have or do not share the vision of those leading.  I once had a mentor retort over and over; the time to have your map is before you go into the woods.  How true that statement is.  You can’t ask “Siri” or “Google” your way to a prosperous bottom line.

Every business has an example of a great leader in that niche.  Research and read about how they view their leadership role.  Each one if they are transparent enough will acknowledge their personal bias, how they compensate during times of stress, they know their strengths and weaknesses, how they value or do not value results over relationships, where they look for people to fill the gaps in their own areas of weakness, and they know they must be consistent with their practices as a leader, how they measure people and success as well as being the pentacle role model for what they want to see in those they lead.

Okay, so what about how you led today in the business world?  What did you model for those you lead?

Author, Janice Bastani, is a certified executive leadership coach and holds many credentials in the coaching arena: Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation, Energy Leadership Coach, Emotional Intelligence Coach, Global Group Coaching Coach, NeuroLeadership Coach, Certified John Maxwell Coach, Speaker, Mentor & Trainer.

Janice holds certifications to give and debrief Energy Leadership Assessments, Level One DISC assessment as well as being a Trainer with the DISC Personality Profile, Emotional Intelligence Assessments, Personality Profiling, along with several others in her faith ministry for Spiritual Gifts, and Strengths Profile. She is a founding member of the John Maxwell Team. Janice holds a BA in Journalism. Learn more about Janice at www.janicebastanicoaching.com 

No Excuse, Sir!

No Excuse, Sir!

One of the very first things I learned as a brand-new Air Force Academy cadet on day 1 was that in basic training, I was expected to spend more time listening than talking.  I couldn’t talk to my fellow basic cadets at all unless we happened to be in one of a handful of places in which talking was specifically allowed.  When addressing a member of the cadet cadre, unless otherwise asked or directed, I was to use one of the seven basic responses:

1. Yes, sir! (or Ma’am, of course)

2. No, sir!

3. Sir, may I ask a question!?

4. Sir, may I make a statement!?

5. Sir, I do not know!

6. Sir, I do not understand!

7. No excuse, sir!

Out of all of the basic responses, “No excuse, sir” presented the most opportunities for failure.  The other six were completely straightforward.  If someone asked me a question to which I didn’t know the answer, I said “sir, I do not know.”  If someone asked me a question and I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, I said “sir, I do not understand.”  And so on.

“No excuse, sir,” on the other hand, was reserved only to be used as a reply to a question that began with the word “why.”  It was tough to remember to use it because the natural inclination when someone asks a question is to provide an answer.

A typical exchange might sound like this:

Cadre: Orr, why do your boots look as though you polished them with a chocolate bar?

Me: Sir, I didn’t have time to…

Cadre: [cutting off my reply] I SAID WHY!


The cadre may not have cared about the shine on my boots at that moment, and I might even have had a perfectly valid reason for them to look the way they did.  The “why” of his question was never about getting to the root cause of the situation.  It was about getting me to understand that in the military, excuses wouldn’t be tolerated.  If I were going to assimilate into this culture, I had to find a way to unemotionally deal with a no-win situation in which someone was going to yell at me for not being able to fit a 10-minute task into the 5 minutes I had available to me. It wasn’t about teaching me to shine boots.  It was about testing my resilience.

The cadre’s “why” was really a stipulation, not a question.  My boots looked awful and that I was solely to blame regardless of the conditions leading up to that moment.  “No excuse, sir” represented acceptance of my sub-standard performance and a willingness to press on in the face of impossible time constraints.

When you preface a question to one of the people on your team with the word “why” you’re probably making a similar stipulation.  “Why isn’t this task finished?” isn’t so much a question as an accusation.  You probably don’t even want to know the actual reason it’s not done.  What you really want to hear is “No excuse, sir!” followed by actions to rectify the situation.

Here’s the problem; unless you’re testing this person’s ability to suck it up and soldier on like in basic training, you really do care about his impediments to success.  If he truly has 5 minutes to do a 10-minute task, you need to do one of three things: remove 5 minutes of task, add 5 minutes of time or teach him how to be more efficient.

Starting with an accusatory tone through the use of the word “why” torpedoes this process from the beginning because it puts him on the defensive and makes him more likely to create lame excuses in an attempt to make the pain go away.  Lame excuses make you angrier which in turn makes him more defensive which in turn creates more lame excuses, ad infinitum.

Step one for you as the leader is to get him to talk about the task unemotionally.  The way to do that is to ask open-ended questions to get to the “what” and “how” of the situation.

“How goes the progress on your task?”

“What’s your plan for completing this task on time?”

The bonus is that “what” and “how” put you in a mindset in which you’re more open to receiving the information that comes back.  It starts a conversation in which you’re genuinely receptive to finding a solution versus a one-way “conversation” in which you’ve already made up your mind and now you’re simply issuing punishment in the form of accusatory language.

Unless you want to hear “No excuse, sir!” –and maybe you have a perfectly understandable reason to do just that–leave “why” behind and start the conversation with “what” and “how.”  You’re more likely to find solutions to the problems that are besetting your people, and they’ll be more open in their communications with you.


Author Jeff Orr is a highly-respected CTA Graduate and a Certified Human Capital Coach who helps organizations achieve their peak performance by blending business coaching skills with 24 years experience as a USAF fighter pilot. Jeff has trained over 300 F-16 pilots from 5 continents. He also currently works as a pilot for a major commercial airline.  Learn more about Jeff at www.JeffOrr.com


5 Habits of Confident Coaches

5 Habits of Confident Coaches

For many of us, our ultimate goal is to become a masterful coach so that when we are working with our clients (employees, colleagues, team members), we feel capable, confident and connected not just to the person we are coaching but to our intuition.  So, what are the 5 habits that create that confidence? And how can you start bringing those 5 habits into your practice?



Number one is to acknowledge your value. It doesn’t come naturally to recognize your worth, but it is something that you can grow into, consciously. When I first started coaching, I used coaching to help individuals figure out how they were going to get a project done or better manage their time.  Initially, I used coaching as just another tool in my tool kit to help people figure out how to solve a particular challenge.  While I thought it was great that I could help my clients come up with their own solutions, I didn’t fully understand the impact it had.  But as I started to experience coaching more (as a client and a coach), I discovered there was more value in these coaching sessions than I realized.

Fast forward to today…..

I absolutely stand by the value of coaching and my value as a coach.  We serve to hold space for others, to allow them to become fully thinking and emotional human beings, to bring what is lurking in the subconscious forward and once it’s there, we support our clients to  take action.  I have witnessed the personal and professional growth that has come about because of coaching sessions.  Finding solutions, solving challenges and creating opportunities is great; but to me, the biggest value is the personal development that happens. Coaching helps human beings develop their capability and trained coaches help people grow.  So, to be a confident coach, know your value and know the value of your coaching sessions.



Number two, trust your expertise. Like many new coaches, when I first started coaching my team, I would come away from my coaching conversations feeling disappointed that I didn’t come up with the absolute best question to ask or perhaps wondering if I missed some clue during the session that might have held the opportunity for a mind-shifting Ah-ha moment.  While the people I coached would let me know how helpful each session was, I knew that the sessions were not as good as they could be.  At times, I even doubted if I was good enough.

During this initial phase of self-doubt, I was so focused on the skills and capabilities I lacked that I lost sight of my own unique expertise that I could bring to my sessions.  How could I fully show up for my client when I was internally focused on my own short comings? Eventually, I realized that there’s something special and unique about each and every one of us and that we are at our best when we draw upon those strengths and talents. Some coaches like to integrate their background in psychology or behavior sciences.  I like to integrate what I know about business and career transitions.  I also love drawing upon my experience in sports and using symbolism and analogies as I communicate.  I show up with an enthusiastic and optimistic energy.  I bring all of that into my coaching sessions, and those are my natural talents.

Now, you might be someone who easily distinguishes speech patterns, pitch or cadence. You might be someone who is really good at picking up on shifting energy, so your natural talent is seizing the coachable moment around those shifting emotions. Or maybe your natural talent is that you create short powerful questions that help your clients gain crystal clarity.

So, to be a confident coach, you need to know and trust your own expertise.  Don’t think, “I’m not good enough because I’m not great at reflecting back to the client,” or “I’m not intuitive enough.” Know that your talents are enough and draw upon them naturally.  Doing this will allow you to show up fully for your client.  Confident coaches focus on what they are great at and what makes a coaching session with “them” special and unique. Number two is trust your expertise.



Now, I’m going to be honest with you. Not all confident coaches meditate.  But the third habit of a confident coach is honing their ability to clear the mind, tune into their client and be fully present.  In order for you to really connect with your clients every time you coach and respond intuitively, it’s incredibly important that you know how to turn shut down your brain-chatter and hold space for your client. For some, this comes naturally.  Others may find they need a bit of practice.  Getting centered is a tried-and-true way that coaches can show up blank to a client session.  For me, I like to do a few cycles of square breathing (inhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts, exhale 4 counts and hold the exhale 4 counts, repeating the cycle 2 or 3 times).  This simple exercise helps me quiet my mind and set my focus.  You may prefer to stare at a photo, gaze at a candle or simply close your eyes and let your thoughts move through your mind like a smooth flowing river.  Regardless of what method you choose, create a daily practice of clearing the mind.  If you begin a coaching session with background noise in your mind (email, reports, judgements, your own ideas, to do list) and you haven’t taken the time to pause and clear out first, then your coaching session is not going to be as good as it could be. Employ the practice of getting centered each day, however that works best for you, so that skill comes to you easily when you’re about to do a coaching session.  Habit #3: get centered.



I know, it’s ironic that one of the items on the tip sheet is ‘Get rid of the Tip Sheet’.   When I was first starting out, I kept a list of Powerful Questions right next to me during every coaching sessions.  If I wasn’t sure what to ask, I would look down at my list and pick one that seemed most appropriate.  Looking back, I can see how these questions were a bit like training wheels giving me a sense of security and providing the opportunity to try out a few variations until I found my own voice.  In some ways they helped me get started and in other ways they held me back.

It’s a wonderful thing if you can ditch the tips/tools during the coaching session and learn to trust your intuition.  Even though you might build a clumsy version of a question, what you gain is the ability to connect much more deeply with your client.   You will see it come out in your coaching sessions in really beautiful ways.  You will also learn to improvise and respond intuitively which will make your sessions more powerful and develop your skills more quickly.  Not quite ready to fly without a net?  If you still use tips and cheat sheets during your coaching session, be willing to coach without relying on them for one or two sessions.  You will quickly realize you have the skills to do it on your own.  You might also quickly realize any gaps in your training. Have you forgotten a specific technique?  Is there a skill you need to polish?   When you refer back to your training materials, try and do what confident coaches do and reference these tips outside of the coaching session.  The only exception to this rule would be using a coaching model (at Coach Training Alliance we use The Simple Coaching Model).  The coaching model provides a framework for your coaching conversations; we use the same model with every single coaching session.  Having the Simple Coaching Model front and center is a great way to ensure your coaching conversations are productive and stay on track.  So, the next time you have a coaching conversation- ditch the Tip Sheet, show up authentically and respond intuitively to your client.



The final habit of a confident coach is being curious.  We have people coming into our Coach Training Programs – some of them have been coaching informally for 10-15 years-and they bring with them a learning mindset where they are open to new possibilities, willing to explore new perspectives and are able to go even deeper in their training.   As coaches, we can always go deeper in our training and integrate this new capability or perspective in our coaching sessions.  However, lifelong learning isn’t only about acquiring knowledge, skills or polishing techniques (although those will certainly help you become a more capable coach), we are constantly presented with informal learning opportunities.  For me it is both enlightening and rewarding to ask, “What did you find most valuable today?”   I love this question because it serves to reinforce for the client what they got out of the session and helps me gain a better understanding of how the session (and which parts) impacted my client the most.  More to the point, confident coaches are curious.  They continually learn about themselves, learn about their value, appreciate the wisdom of their clients and because of this are able to sponge up an abundance of thoughts, perspectives, ideas, and discoveries as they co-create and collaborate.  Learning is about being genuinely interested, curious, and willing to explore something new.  “How would this training make me a better coach?”  “What would happen if I tried this approach?”  “Where does this client really want to go?”  Being curious opens the possibility for coaches to develop through the many formal and informal learning opportunities around them.

So, number 5: Be Curious.



In summary, those are the 5 habits of Confident Coaches. Hopefully these habits will serve you well as you forge ahead helping your clients:

  1. Acknowledge your value.
  2. Trust your expertise.
  3. Get centered.
  4. Get rid of the Tip Sheet.
  5. Be Curious.

Do those 5 things, and you will quickly become a confident coach. Amazing things will happen for you because you’ll be putting yourself out there in such a powerful way and helping and serving so many people while trusting your intuition and giving value.


About the Author: Holly Hutchinson is a Certified Human Capital Coach and Wellness Coach who has been practicing since 2008.  Holly’s passion is positive growth and lifelong learning.  Her experience includes international trade and marketing as well as system sales into the Fortune 500.  Holly’s focus at CTA is the growth of emerging programs for trade associations, organizational coaching deployment and CTA’s yoga programs.  In addition to her work at CTA, Holly is a competitive athlete and serves on several non-profit boards.  Holly is married with 2 children and is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.

Why employee performance reviews are getting sacked

Why employee performance reviews are getting sacked

Excerpt from “Why Employee Performance Reviews Are Getting Sacked”

What have you done this year to justify your salary?

The employee quakes and mumbles something, hoping at best to boost their pay, at worst to avoid getting sacked.

It’s the annual appraisal.

What were his strengths? “Accounts”. Weaknesses? “Eczema”. And the training he received to use his computer? He didn’t know.

Perhaps none too soon, this clumsy method of evaluation, which ranks, grades and irritates employees across the world, is being re-appraised – and found wanting, by some firms, at least.

Re-posted from BBC. Full article can be found here – https://www.bbc.com/news/business-33984961

The Coach in the Operating Room

The Coach in the Operating Room

Excerpt from “The Coach in the Operating Room” by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public-health researcher, and a New Yorker staff writer since 1998.

“I’ve been a surgeon for eight years. For the past couple of them, my performance in the operating room has reached a plateau. I’d like to think it’s a good thing—I’ve arrived at my professional peak. But mainly it seems as if I’ve just stopped getting better.”

No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own. That’s where coaching comes in.

“Get them to think. It’s the only way people learn.” – Robert Osteen, retired general surgeon

Re-posted from The New Yorker magazine. Full article can be found here – https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/10/03/personal-best

Conflict Coaching

Conflict Coaching

It’s inevitable. It’s part of the human experience. It arouses strong emotions.

We’re talking about conflict, of course. As coaches we are good at managing and coaching our clients through conflict (aren’t we??).

There are many ways of dealing with conflict, of course, and we all have our preferences. Some tend to avoid it at all costs, often at their own expense. Others become quite aggressive and can damage relationships in the process. Still others tend to roll over and accommodate, failing to get their own needs met in life.

First, conflict is not bad. It is a natural occurrence. As noted earlier, it is part of the human experience. It’s how it’s managed that makes the difference.

Selecting the best approach to managing conflict depends on the situation, and the capabilities and awareness of the individual. There are times when it is best temporarily avoided, at least until emotions calm down. Other times we need to step up to an aggressive approach. And sometimes it’s best to compromise (give a little, get a little), or accommodate (if we know we are wrong or it really doesn’t matter much). And then, of course, there’s the win-win, Getting-to-Yes, collaborative approach to resolving conflict.

The best among us flex, stretch themselves out of their comfort zone, and adapt the approach to the unique circumstances of the situation. Conflict is addressed effectively, in a healthy balanced manner without damaging relationships and without giving up on our own needs.

Handling the inevitable conflicts that arise in life is a topic that frequently surfaces in coaching. Proactively and consciously identifying a path to managing conflict is a powerful first step, an authentic one. Supporting our clients as they sift through the various ways of dealing with conflict themselves is just one of the key coaching skills so worthy of exploration and growth in your coaching journey.

Dr. Laura Belsten, is Dean of the Graduate School of Coaching, a Master Certified Coach (MCC), and a national leader in the field of Emotional Intelligence. Personal Power is one of the twenty-four key competencies of the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile ™.