Do You Coach or Give Advice?

Andrea ChilcoteBy Andrea Chilcote

I don’t mean “Are you a coach?” – though some of you might be, in your role at work as a manager, in a sports context, or perhaps as a professional. What I’m asking is, when someone needs help, do you provide coaching – or do you advise, give feedback, solve others’ problems for them, criticize, or judge – with the intent of being helpful?

As a professional coach and also one who teaches others to do so, I give a lot of thought to what coaching is and isn’t. And I think the world needs more coaches and fewer critics; more empowerment to think on our own, and less advice.

Think of an example in your own life – as a parent, as a friend or as a leader. When presented with a situation in which someone needs help,

  • Do you ask enough questions to fully understand the situation – or do you already know what you think is going on and what they should do?
  • Do you listen objectively to understand, or do you listen with a biased ear, one that either agrees or disagrees?
  • Do you encourage them to identify strategies and solutions, or do you simply give advice?

And one final question, has anyone ever made a significant change because you told them they should?

In my work, the purpose of coaching is to affect change – create movement and shifts in people’s perceptions, viewpoints and behaviors. And I’m betting that’s the goal of the situation you just thought of. It’s all about change, subtle or substantial.

People change when the factors that create their experience change.  In order to do change a person’s experience, we have to:

  1.  Understand the current situation from their perspective.
  2. Clearly define their desired future or result.
  3. Understand what it will take to get to the result.

The process I described takes time and patience. It takes dialogue. And it requires a mindset of objectivity (a willingness to suspend our own biases), and positive intent.

In my experience, it works with teenagers, significant others, friends and team members. Here’s a simple version:

  • First ask:  “What’s going on? What’s causing this situation? What’s the impact?”
  • Then ask:  “What do you want? And (important!) – What will having that do for you?”
  • Finally, ask: “What will it take to get to the result? What are you willing to commit to?”

Do you want to help another change? Try empowering him/her to help their self.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

Shopping for a Boat

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? At least close to 400, the length of this post.

Andrea ChilcoteToday I saw a cartoon drawing on LinkedIn that stopped me in my tracks. In one box, labeled “your plan,” there was a bicyclist starting up a moderate incline, with a checkered flag at the top. A box below it was labeled “reality.” Along the road there was a pile of boulders, a washed out hole with a precarious bridge covering it, a deep body of water requiring a boat, and the requisite stormy skies. The checkered flag was missing.

Not being a pessimist, at first it was tempting to scoff. But the depiction got me thinking about an idea I’ve been kicking around lately with anyone who will listen. We need a new way of looking at change – in organizations and in our lives.

For many years, change gurus have been helping people manage through it by defining change as “transition.” The idea is that that change is a process not an event, and that there is a common psychological path we follow as we move though ending the old, shifting into neutral, then eventually embracing new beginnings.

My insight is that it seems that today there are no real new beginnings, at least not in the traditional sense. Rarely do things “stabilize” as we settle in. In the organizations I work with, change is usually a prelude to more change. It’s certainly true in families – births, deaths, unions and divorces are just events that precipitate more disruption in the status quo.

So maybe we need a shift in our thinking. Maybe the second cartoon drawing need not represent a series of inevitable negative events, but rather a “reality” that honestly depicts the truth of a complex and dynamic world. We can choose to view changes as obstacles, or we can choose to put one foot in front of the other and even enjoy the experience. Build a bridge, buy a boat. It’s my opinion that those who learn to do this with open hearts and minds vs. fear and resentment are the ones who possess the resilience essential for life as we know it.

Maybe the change gurus will come up with a new model for coping. Meanwhile, I’m shopping for a boat.

“…the measure of success is how we cope with the disappointment…”

—Evelyn Greenslade, character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie


The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

Re-Write the Story of Your Life (2014)

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

How does one “Re-Write the Story of Their Life?” This is the first in a three-part series I wrote in 2012 for The Spirited Woman. In part one I ask, “Which story are you telling?”

Some time ago I had a conversation with a colleague who was making a difficult choice to leave both a job and a marriage that were consuming her very life force. I observed that this opportunity had been knocking on her door for years, getting louder and more persistent over time, and that perhaps she should answer the call. If not, the door was about to be busted through and the house blown down, as the proverbial wolf did in the Three Little Pigs.

A watershed moment for her, she realized that one cannot proclaim to be self-aware and committed to living purposefully, in integrity, if unwilling to make changes in a life that’s not working.

You’ve heard the saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” This paradigm is why many people stay in abusive relationships, endure dysfunctional employers, and fail to take the leap toward long-held dreams. Change itself is not what we fear; it’s the transition that we endure getting from here to there that’s not for the faint of heart. Perhaps so many of us today are in “transition” because we have the courage of conviction. What is the spark behind that courage? The choice to take full responsibility for one’s life.

Any story we tell about difficulty in our lives can be told in two ways. In story one, we tell what happened; a play by play account of wins and losses, who did what and why – from our own point of view. The flaw with this method is just that – our own point of view! If things didn’t turn out as we wished, it’s easy to tell a story of what happened to us, what was done to us, and how unfair it all was. Story two is very different. Story two is an account we tell taking full responsibility for everything that happened. It’s a way of examining the beliefs we held, the decisions we made and the actions we took that led to others’ actions or so-called fate stepping in.

Which story is most true? Even though story one is literally true, story two, the story in which we step fully into the great gift of an empowered life, is the only story worth telling.

The purpose of story two is never, ever to create guilt or self-blame. Story two’s true purpose is to free us to remember we are the causal force in our lives, and our choices and decisions produce our results. Sometimes life does just happen, with serious or tragic consequences. Story two gives us a chance to think or behave in a new way even after a very difficult experience.  A liberating idea, don’t you think?

If you have recently taken a leap, or if the wolf is at your door and you find yourself considering transition, use story two to create a map, lay out next steps, start anew. You’re in charge of your life.

My colleague is now living in story two, free from the burden of relinquishing control to others. Easy it is not, and she’s befriending the wolf who knocked, learning each day to savor the journey, one step at a time.

Read parts two and three on The Spirited Woman:

Stress Behavior

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

Want inside information (literally) about how to improve your day-to-day relationships with others? Know what pushes your buttons and (drum-roll please) – manage your reaction to them.

One of the instruments I use in my work as a coach is the Birkman AssessmentA brilliant part of this tool is a component called “stress behavior.” Simply, it’s the behavior we demonstrate when we experience the stress of not having our needs met – in other words, the stress of having our buttons pushed.

Relationships of all kinds provide the opportunity for well-meaning others to inadvertently trip our stress switch. We all have different, often invisible needs. Pity the person who misreads your needs (most often assuming yours are just like his or hers), acts with positive intent and is met with – you know it – stress behavior. 

Here’s an example. I love change. Variety makes me happy and the more balls I’m juggling, the better – if I initiated the change. One of the features of my particular personality is that I don’t like it when others impose change on me, especially without my input. Some of you just roll with this. Some of you welcome a few extra juggling balls to be thrown in from the outside. Not me. So when “my button gets pushed” in this manner, unchecked, my natural tendency is to resist. Then, if it’s inevitable I’ll often take extra steps to make the change, whatever it is, mine. I “change the change” so that it suits me. It’s actually one of the toughest challenges in my (happy) 25 year marriage.

Arthur likes to change things that affect me. I’ve gotten so I don’t come unglued when he moves a picture from one wall to another. But as self-aware and disciplined as I am about these things, this past week has held daily tests (from many people, not just poor Arthur). Managing my reaction to inevitable changes has been my theme this week. Even after I began this post this morning, I nearly snapped at a client for daring to make a sweeping change at the 11th hour. It turned out to be a humorous interaction, but still…

Can you name one need you have, that, when unmet, causes you to act a little crazy? You have two choices. Get that need met – if you can. If you can’t yet command the universe to deliver on your every whim, learn to take a breath, then take responsibility. It’s probably just you.