There are 3 things needed in order to change:
You also need to understand what your desired outcome is and what is standing in your way. Once defined, you have the power to better yourself. Dr. Marcia Reynolds discusses her training and coaching methods used to set leaders up for success while providing them with the tools to enrich the lives of others.
- 3:57 – Why emotional intelligence is the ‘missing’ ingredient in training
- 7:49 – why information DOES NOT change behavior
- 11:50 – The benefits of a ‘thinking partner’
- 17:00 – The three elements of change
- 22:43 – Coaching: defining the outcome & what is getting in the way
- 27:20 – Why creating psychological safety is so important in coaching
- 34:01 – Training is an event NOT a process
- 37:14 – How to spark the curiosity & desire to learn
The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs – Marcia Reynolds
Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry – Marcia Reynolds
Full Episode Transcription:
So Marcia, thank you so much for joining on today’s call. So nice to talk to you.
Oh, well thank you for asking me. I’m glad to be here.
I’m very exciting. So in the very first part of the podcast and the video interview here, I love to talk about, you know, what really drives you because I find that for listeners, you know, if they can find that really quickly, if they resonate with who you are and why you do what you do, they can decide if it’s a, if it’s a great episode for them to listen to. So tell us a little bit about your why. Why do you do what you do?
Well, I like many people. My career was not just a choice and then I did it, you know, it’s been a journey. And at the beginning there’s always, you know, fits and starts and accidental things that happen. And that’s what happened to me. I accidentally fell into a training department and then my boss decided to get her doctorate, dumped the whole thing in my lap. And my first assignment was management training. So I quickly went and you know, people always say, Oh, you have two masters degrees. Well, I went to get a degree to figure out what I was doing. You know, how to actually design instruction that works. And, and that’s what launched me onto my whole years of trying to figure out what does it really take for people to learn and learn in a way that changes their behavior.
So I spent, yeah, 16 years working in companies, running training departments, doing organizational change, learning how to do interactive exercises, things to help people learn. But there was still this, they would enjoy the class but then go back to doing what they were always doing before. And when I finally left my last job as I hit the glass ceiling and knew it was time to move on is when I found emotional intelligence. And, and I started reading it and I said, I understand how this works with interaction, but there’s, it seems that that was a missing element in, in training and instruction and learning is the emotional aspect. So I got very interested in all the new research about how the brain works. And I started researching and correlating brain functioning to learning. And that’s when I also ran into coaching and found, Oh, when you get people to think for themselves to, to activate their critical thinking in a way they can’t do it for themselves, that’s when breakthrough and learning actually happens. And so it was about 20 years ago that I started to find this and, and really look into the neuroscience of learning and coaching and teaching that. And and I have now found that even in my training, adding in coaching technique really helps people to, to grow and learn. So my passion is helping people to grow and learn.
I love, I love it. And that’s exactly why we ended up connecting for this because that is, you know, I’ve gone through a lot of my own self discovery and introspection and growth and learning is at the top of the list. So you touched on so many great things there. And I wrote down a few notes here, like knowledge versus wisdom or coaching versus teaching or training. All right. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, the differences there? Because I think one is about information, right? And you present information to someone. Maybe they remember that information, but there’s, I can feel in you that that’s not enough, right? So when you’re coaching or when you’re teaching someone about emotional intelligence, you know, what is the, what do you need to do differently to transfer information versus actually have that information, help them learn and grow or grow. And I guess grow as well.
First I want to make the distinction between information and behavioral change. You know, because honestly when you think about it, information doesn’t change behavior. You know, cause whenever I ask people, so is there anything that you know, you should be doing but you don’t, you know, everybody can raise their hand. And in the medical field, we know that. We tell people if you don’t do this, you’ll die. That they’ll do it for a week and then they find reasons for not doing it. So information doesn’t change behavior. So you might as well just, you know, Mark that off, that the only information has to have an emotional element for it to transfer from short term memory to long term memory and where behavioral change will happen. So I have to go, wow, that’s awesome. Thank you for that information. And then I might remember, you know, otherwise when I go to sleep my brain’s going to sort it out and say non-important and you won’t remember.
But if I think it’s awesome, I might remember. But again, even then I may not change. But on the other hand, if I get you to, to critically look at your thinking, and I always say put it, we put it out here or as John Dewey, the educational reformer in the early 19 hundreds he said, if we help people to climb a tree in their mind and look down on their stories and how they think, they will see how they’re sabotaging their behavior and their gaps in logic and the old beliefs that are clinging to that are no longer useful, they will see that on their own. And once they see that that’s that break in what I thought I knew and what I’m holding onto and when we have that break and knowing is when learning can occur. Real learning at a midbrain level to where it just changes our behavior naturally. So that’s the difference. You know, coaching and, and training where we get people to think for themselves will actually change behavior we’re telling. Doesn’t do it.
Yeah. Do you find the coaching? You know, I, I find that the coaches that I’ve spoken with and worked with, it’s not a giant shift. Like it’s not so radically different than someone who’s teaching, but it’s very significant. And I feel like a lot of times in, in school, they, they miss that part, right? It’s just a transfer of information. It’s, I’m gonna say this and you’re going to remember it.
It’s a brain dump.
What’s that? It’s a brain dump. It’s a total brain dump. Explain to the listener, the viewer, some, you know, kind of the basic framework of the, the type of coaching that leads to that perspective of climbing the tree and looking down.
Well, you know I know different people have different ways of coaching and so, so, so you understand, you know, I’m a founding member and past global president of the inner cat national coach Federation and help to create the coaching competencies that they use. And so that’s just kind of like, okay, so I ascribe to those, some people do, some people don’t, but those competencies are the whole you know, what I call reflective inquiry. And that’s again, I go back to John Dewey cause he was the one who coined that, that it’s not just that we ask questions to get people to stop and think, but we have to help them again to see their thinking. So we use reflective statements. So like, you know, you talking to me, I would summarize. So you’re interested in knowing the distinction between telling and learning.
Correct. So I would just summarize what you said to me and it’s so amazing. It just, like you said, it’s not necessarily this aha, you know, huge, big insight. But just sometimes when I summarize to people what they said, they’re like, Oh well that’s interesting. I said that, you know, or I’ll say, well it sounds like you have two issues you want to work on. Do you see, are they or are they different? And so I’m asking them clarification questions and, and then you know, so I understand what you want to achieve, but I think you’re a smart person. What’s keeping you from achieving that? You know, like when somebody says, Oh, I need to prioritize and yet I know that they have huge career, they must have been able to do that. It’s like, I’m not so sure you need me to tell you how to prioritize.
I want to know what’s getting in your way of prioritizing right now that just shifts their thinking slightly. And in these days, even more so than ever before, to have a thinking partner because we’re all overloaded. You know, I teach around the world and I always say, what’s the most common emotions in the workplace? Everywhere in the world they say we’re overwhelmed. We have too much to do or anxious under pressure. Well in those conditions, we’re not thinking straight. And if you can just have someone just for an hour to stop and say, well let’s take a look. It’s what’s going on, what are the challenges you’re facing? How do you see this? And if I can help you just expand your thinking a little bit about your challenges, you’re going to see other ways of addressing that challenge that you didn’t habitually do before. And that’s such a great gift since we don’t do this self-reflection for ourselves.
And not just that we’re overwhelmed, but as like Daniel Conaman and his work around thinking fast and slow, we just don’t self-reflect well, you know, as human beings.
Yea. Why, why is that? Why is it so rare and so difficult for people to take the time to self-reflect?
Well that’s two different things.
Why is it so hard for me and you. Why is it so hard for humans to slow down and do that.
Okay, so that’s an interesting question. So there is two different things and why is it we don’t, can’t do it and why is it we don’t take the time two different questions? So taking the time again, because we all think we don’t have time to sit and, and, and go somewhere and just ponder how I think, you know, we just don’t do that. We’re too busy with other things and we don’t recognize that we need to do that. But even more so what happens is, you know, we have like a box of how we see ourselves in the world and we operate in that box.
If I sit down and start to question my view of myself or reality, there’s a thing called ego that says, no, no, no, no, no. I’m not going to let you do that. You know, you’re really okay. And, and I need to have meaning around, you know, the way I see myself in the world. So if you start to question it and I feel uncertain, then that’s not a good thing. So my ego, which is my sense of self and the world will stop me. I will rationalize my behavior before I question it. And so there’s this thing, even in a number of neuroscientists have written about this one in particular is Michael Gazzaniga who, who questions whether we have free will and he basically says, we don’t, because our brain, you know, won’t let us stop and question it. But if there’s an external disruptor, which is a coach or a teacher who shares what we’re thinking and asks us questions about that for whatever reason that the external works, the external can break through the frame where we cannot do it ourselves so we could all use a coach, you know, and helping us think more broadly for ourselves.
I love that. And it’s, you know, one of the things I hear sometimes is people questioning when they get a coach that they’re, they’re hesitant to work with a coach who hasn’t done exactly what they’re trying to do.
Right? And, and, and I think from what I’ve seen is most times that doesn’t matter because it’s not the coach who solving your problems. It’s you, they’re coaching you to, to think differently and solve it on your own.
Right. Well, you know, it’s just like when I worked in companies, I worked for three companies in my career before I started my business, each company, when I joined them, even my first, I had no idea. But they didn’t hire me for that. They hired me for my capability of designing instruction for teaching, for changing people’s minds and my work ethic because I was an obsessive overachiever. And I figured it out, you know, and that’s the thing is that I believe all my clients are creative, resourceful and whole, and they can figure it out with my help. So I don’t need to know the industry. So now as an executive coach, I’ve worked in almost every industry from construction to food processing to banking. My clients have come from all of that, and if they ask me like this morning, we first worked on her relationship who was inspiring her leadership team.
And then she’s like, Oh, I need to create a business plan. Can you help me do that? And I’m like, no, I don’t know your business. I can tell you some elements you might want to explore with your leadership team and maybe them to create it with you. But you know, I’m not I mean she’s in retail. I’m not an expert in your field and she’s in an entirely different part of the world. And, and she knew that, but we still then got to a point where she was happy with what she was going to present to her team and create together instead of her sitting down and spending hours trying to figure it out herself. So no, but I do have corporate experience and my clients do appreciate that, that they know, I know the challenges in the corporate environment. I’ve worked all over the world, so I have, you know, an understanding of cultural differences, even though human problems are pretty much the same, you know, so they do trust that, you know, and I have credentials and I mean, especially in Asia, that’s important to them. So there is some things I bring to the table that helped them to trust me in terms of my experience and my my own learning. If I just, if I came to them as a coach with no corporate experience and no educational background, I doubt they’d hire me.
All right, so Marcia, can you explain the difference between a coachable mindset and the non coachable mindset? And can you, can you shift that inside someone? I’d love to hear your response on both of those.
Okay. Well, you know, when we use the term coachability we’re, we’re looking first at the issue, is it a coachable issue? And then we look at the person and when I’m hearing you asking me, is your wanting to know in terms of the person’s level of resistance, can that be shifted? Okay. Cause there’s always a, you know, some issues that could be therapeutic that I wouldn’t touch as a coach. Even though I have a doctorate in psychology, I’m like, okay, that doesn’t sound like something we can address. And, and that does happen you know, in the workplace as well. So setting that aside it, you know I always say there’s three elements to change, willingness, desire and courage. And we have first assess willingness with the client. And, and, and oftentimes when people are told they must have coaching, you know, they come to the session not necessarily willing to look at anything.
So first I, I will out, right ask, you know, would you be willing you know, to look at this challenge that you’re having right now. Or is there anything that, that you could, since we’re spending the time together that I can work with you with on that would help you right now? So there has to be a shift and can there be a shift? Yeah, there absolutely can. There are times when people will say, yeah, I’d like to work on this, but then they start doing the bud and you know, and you don’t understand my workplace and all of that. And, and I will actually reflect in that moment that I still, you know, I see this hesitation of wanting to at this whole picture and how you fit into that you know, you could be a total victim in a situation that happens. I’m just wondering if there’s anything possible that you might do that would make this a little easier for you? Would you be willing to look at that? So I actually flat out asked the willingness question and sometimes people will shift into yeah, would make it easier for me to look at that. So but if not, if there’s no willingness game over. And I always tell my leaders that too.
On the cusp if they’re open to it, they’re like, yeah, they’re kind of begrudgingly saying yes. Okay. I would tolerate this coaching. Do you, do you paint a picture of what it is like now and after? Do you do any sort of visualization or anything that brings that out inside of them of how great it will be if they were able to make progress in a certain area?
Well, that’s actually one of the coaching competencies we have to meet, you know, they call it setting the agreement, what are we going to talk about today? But it’s not that it’s desired outcome. So if they do indicate some willingness and that’s okay, we, you know, we have like different levels you can’t get everybody to like, yay, I’m so happy. Yes, I’ll be vulnerable with you. But if there’s an indication of some willingness, that’s the next step. So what would you like to have that you don’t have now? What does that look like? So we have to have some definition, even if it’s totally aspirational that this is what is even slightly possible. So we clarify that picture and then look at, so what’s getting in the way of you creating that picture? And, and that’s what the coaching is about.
The coaching is about, you know, defining the outcome, but then what’s getting in the way? What stopping this smart person from doing this. And you know, like I had a client yesterday and I’m not sure, and that, that she can in her environment, actually create what she wants. There have been some real damage to relationships that could make that difficult. So we’re working on it, but I keep coming back to do you actually believe in this possibility or do we have to look at other options? So I will keep asking that. I want there to be reasonable expectations. And a lot of times though, it’s helpful to get over there. The emotional stuckness, the reactions they have to feeling betrayed, which is very common in the workplace. We don’t use that word much. They thought they were promised this and they didn’t get it to feeling excluded you know, if I can get them to name those things and to look at, you know, is this possible to work through to get what you want, regardless of what has occurred.
You know, that’s just powerful stuff for people. So, and that leads into the thing I said to you that there, there has to be willingness and desire. Desire is what’s in it for you? You know, what’s the payoff? What is that desired outcome that would work for you? So if we don’t have an end, you know, a, a vision or an indication of what they want as a result, they won’t create the desire. So they might be willing, okay, fine, I’ll take your coaching. But if there’s no desired outcome, then you know, they’re going to go back to being unwilling. You have to have both.
Does the, does defining their desire help create the courage or fuel the courage? How does courage fit into it? Because that’s a great word and I’d love to hear your definition of that and how, if it’s just, it is what it is or part of the process is building up more courage within someone.
Well, that’s where the coaching skill comes in. One of the most important thing for a coach to learn how to do or a leader, anyone using a coaching approach is to create psychological safety so the person has to feel totally safe with you. So I do a lot of coaching demonstrations when I talk to different groups and
They’re always amazed how quickly the person will end up being vulnerable with me. Then I can challenge them and even play with them a little bit. And that’s because I’ve learned the power of presence. I always say mastering and coaching is a deepening of presence, not the perfection of your coaching skill. And so if I can create that space with my own emotions, so I, I, I care about you. I’m curious. I don’t know the answers. I want to really listen to you and I believe in you. I believe in your ability to see beyond this and to move forward. And I use my full body presence. And there’s a lot of research around, you know, your head, heart, gut being fully open is what creates psychological safety. So I’ve done a lot of research in my book, that discomforts on, I did a lot of research on how to create a safety bubble so people then will have the courage to step forward to mention something that makes them feel a little vulnerable. But then to see beyond that and make a commitment to doing what they were afraid to do before.
I love that. In your book, do you have your book there? I think you mentioned you might have one. Love to see, see that people can take a mental snapshot of it. The discomfort zone is a, what is the subtitle? I can’t quite,
Oh, it’s how leaders turn difficult conversations into breakthroughs.
I love it. It’s great.
Yeah. So it’s all what we’re talking about is using a coaching approach to leadership conversations.
Yeah. Is that something that people can kind of dip their toe in the water. You know, I’m sure there’s a lot of people listening who, you know, maybe up until this point have run a, you know, rather rigid culture. Right. But they’re seeing that this, this is a hot topic right now. I mean, presence, functional intelligence and creating the safety and being vulnerable. I’ve seen from some of the most well respected leaders at, you know, the biggest, most successful companies. Maybe not just the biggest but really successful companies. So for people who are a little nervous about this traumatic shift and suddenly becoming as vulnerable, you know, emotional leader, can they dip their toe in the water?
Absolutely. But the first question I always ask my leaders, cause I teach this to leaders all over the world. And I have to say in the US we’ve been a little slow to adapt this where they’re adapting it even in China faster than us. I always ask, are you willing in these conversations to give up being the expert, being the one who knows everything you have to do that first. Just say, well, I know things, but I don’t know what this person is facing.
Your cat just give a great jump in the background. I love it. These things are, these are live and uncut. I love it.
Yeah. Well, yeah, that’s the interesting thing. Like I said, it’s been hiding behind the couch for a week and this was the first morning it’s come out.
She’s having a breakthrough right here. It’s great.
It must be you. That’s so funny. So yes. They’re finally getting that they have to have different conversations, especially now with the younger workforce coming in. The whole concept that I have to believe in you and that you’re smart and you’re creative and, and you just need someone to help you think. And it’s like the employees love that instead of being told what to do. You know, and again, the younger workforce, they don’t want to be told what to do. So you’re wasting your time. You’re wasting your time. So if you could just sit down and have a conversation where you’re helping them to think, they feel valued, you know, and a totally a part, like, their your partner and that’s what creates engagement these days and leads to performance change.
Oh, okay. So let’s drill in there a little bit. I love that. So engagement and all of, you know, what we’ve talked about so far is very human, right? Yes. And lead engagement and relationships and discussion and culture and all that. In terms of engagement. Is there, are there things that are occurring in the world and in the companies you consult that bring this into something that’s a little more tangible or digital like tools and processes and training and onboarding and things like that that can, that can kind of, I guess, express some of these characteristics but, but utilize technology.
Well, you know, that’s an interesting, I mean, being that I often coach just like we’re talking right now that I, you know, coached through zoom this morning. I was saying I had a client and it, it was over we chat in China. Yeah. And so with the translator, there was three of us on the call. And so there’s no excuse for not having, for not having regular conversations. You know, I always hear that excuse, I’m not present, I’m not there, but having regular conversations, there’s so many companies that are getting, doing away with their old performance systems and moving into regular conversations. So, you know, can you replace that with technology? I don’t think you can replace the human interaction and my sense of that you really care about me with technology. But you can use technology to make that a regular event.
Can you, can you scale it with technology? So if you’re a CEO of a 5,000 person organization, I know it’s not the same, but if you were to make a quick Monday morning video,
Right. Can you do that? And can you do one to many using technology?
Absolutely. Yes. The touch factor is so critical. You’re right, you know, creating little videos, little short ones is important. You know, there are companies creating their own apps that give people just, you know, reminders of the week with little quotes. You know, they’ll have a training program. I mean, one thing I learned and, and you heard, I’ve been a trainer for over 30 years. That training is an event, not a process. So all I can do is inspire you to learn more. There must be follow up and the followup, you know, it can be like, you know, group meetings, but it can be in so many ways of just the reminders, regular reminders to think about these things. So again, you know, morning inspiration. And when I teach emotional intelligence I say, you know, set your alarm on your phone to go off three times a day.
And so it just asks you what are you feeling right now? So you start creating awareness. And, and I know there’s apps that do that that get people to log, you know, their emotional experiences throughout the week. So you know, you can create lots of different followup activities using technology. You know, a lot of places then create whether it’s, you know, private Facebook or their own platform where they have conversation places where people can go online and have conversations about certain topics or the challenges they’re facing. So you can definitely use technology to do the ongoing event of learning. Again, learning doesn’t happen like that, you know, it takes a while for us to ingrain new behaviors. And so what support can you give people to help them to remember and to overcome their fears and frustrations? Cause it’s difficult to change. So we can do a lot of things to help them.
That’s great. Anything else, top of mind for you? I mean, there’s, there’s so much that we could go into, but this is, this has been great. I’ve got some really good notes. You know, on the topic of learning and changing.
Again, thinking sort of from a, from a corporate perspective, because a lot of the listeners are leaders at larger companies. Any other tips or strategies to, to create, you know, to sort of invigorate that desire within people, the light, a light, a spark under there, you know, they’re learning, like really fire up their desire to learn. Especially it’s, it’s easier to learn about something you’re really interested in, but at a big company you’ve got to learn about things that are just kind of boring, right? You got to know the products, you’ve got to know the market, you got to know things that might not be naturally very exciting to you. So is there anything you can do to, to spark that curiosity or desire?
Well, you know, it’s always gotta be it tied into a goal they have. So a lot of times I’ll get leaders that are struggling and, and it’s not about me changing their behavior. Like I had this one woman who, and it was a different culture. She was Dutch working in Latin America, and so all of her peers were, had a different view of leadership than her. And her boss said, I cannot promote you until your peers, respect you as a leader. And that was just, you know,
Wow, that’s a really powerful statement there.
Yeah. But that’s true. That whole, you know, we forget, we manage up and down and not sideways, but sideways is critical to success.
And she was very critical of her peers in meetings. And so he told her quit insulting them. So she did. But every time somebody would say something that she didn’t like, she would like, sigh. And so it’s like changing your behavior didn’t work. And so we got together and my whole view was okay, let’s take a look at the concept of leadership. You know, let’s look at your view, but let’s look at their view and where’s the conflict? And do you have the goal? Do you care about the goal of them seeing you as a leader? At first she was resistant. You know, it’s like, no, I don’t care. It’s like, okay, well if you don’t care, you won’t change. And then finally she’s, she, you know, it took a few sessions. She says, I do care. It’s just been difficult. I said, I understand that, but not impossible.
So again, I’m going to ask you what’s important to them? What are their values? How do they see leadership? Is there anything within their view that works for you? And she did find, you know, yes, they’re very far more relational than her. Can you be relational? And she says, well, yes, I am with my own employees. Okay. So what’s the difference between your peers and your own employees? So again, just by me getting her to look at her story around leadership, and then I’m asking her these critical questions that made her think, you know, of what’s, where her beliefs were getting in the way she could see beyond these herself and decide what it is she needed to do. And she did. And she did get her promotion, but it was about her thinking that helped me to help her. So it’s always gotta be tied into something that’s important to them.
So it’s like I might not care about the product. All I care about is people when I worked in companies, but they care about the product and they’re not going to listen to me if I don’t know a little bit about it. And so my ahh, getting over my, you know, I don’t like the technical stuff too. I need to learn a little bit about this so I can connect with the people that I want to help. You know, what’s important. So there’s gotta be a connection to a desired outcome no matter what. You just can’t tell people you have to do this, you know, the half too and consequences doesn’t work. You can’t scare people into learning.
Right, right. That’s great. Well, Marcia, I’ve got a ton of notes here. We’d love to wrap up by you just explaining maybe a little bit about who your current book is for, right. Just so if people want to go out and grab that, who, who is a good fit for that and then touch on your new book as well, which I know you have coming out next year.
Well when I wrote the discomfort zone, it was based on even coaches, you know, they get to this point to where they felt a little uncomfortable to challenge, to push and, and they’d back off. And I’m like, you know, they can’t do that because especially with their high level leaders they’re not getting where they want to go. And so I wanted to address that difficulty, the difficult conversation and why we avoid them and the courage that’s needed from the leader of the coach. And I found that, you know, coaches loved the book and it’s for leaders and there are companies that buy the book, but it’s still a little intimidating to a lot of leaders who, as you said, don’t, haven’t dipped their toe into this. So the book the discomfort zone does give lots of tips on how to have these conversations to move people forward.
So it is for leaders and coaches, but the book I’m writing now is called the coach’s guide to reflective inquiry seven essential practices to breakthrough coaching. And I start with what really is coaching, where did it come from? Really? It’s not out of therapy. It’s actually out of learning. When I mentioned to you John Dewey and and you know, what are these essential elements that anyone can use that we make coaching too hard? Like, Oh, I have to think of a powerful question to ask. It’s like, no, just reflect back what you heard and be curious. And so I kinda demystify coaching and make it simpler. And whenever people watch my demos, they go, Oh wow, I can do that. Oh I can do that. So the new book, it won’t be out till next spring, you know, spring of 2020. But on my email@example.com. I’m like, I’m putting little bits and pieces and the stuff I have to cut cause it’s too long, I’ll put in my blog. So I recommend people to sign up for my blog to get pieces of the new book to help them, you know, put their toes in the water and really make a difference in their conversations with the people that they lead.
Excellent. Well thank you very much. I was really just, you know, listening intently to some of these things and I’ve got some great notes, which I will put in the show notes and I’ll put a link to the outsmart your brain blog so people can get more information and get in touch with you if they want to work with you.
Well thank you so much.
Thank you so much Marcia. Have a wonderful day.
You too. Bye bye.