Tag Archive for: coaching

An Exercise for Great Listening

If you don’t listen to people, you will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” – Anon

The number one way to show anybody that you care about them is to listen to them!  Let me share with you an exercise that exhibits the power of great listening. An exercise you can put to good use too.

It is a very simple exercise you can do at work, with prospects, home, and with friends. I call it the five-minute exercise. You can do it with two or three people, depending in part on how much time you have. Three is great because it allows one person to be an observer. It is a great exercise to go through after completing some program, announcement etc. as a way for people to process and share.

Person A will speak for five minutes about whatever the subject might be that day. It could be about sales, strategy, innovative ideas, or where they want to be in your career.  Person A will talk without interruption for a full five minutes. A warning is given when there is one minute to go.  What Person A does with their five minutes is up to them. If they get quiet, odds are they will think that staring at you is just way too weird and speak again, about anything.

Now Person B’s job is to just listen for five minutes, like some Buddhist monk. You just sit there. No sounds, hand gestures, nodding, nada. Only pure listening. No exceptions allowed. See if you can do it!

Note: if Person A were to pause…that is not an invitation for Person B to say anything. Ever. As the saying goes, your job is to let the silence do the heavy lifting. Given the space needed, they will begin again.

If there is a Person C, they can observe, sitting from the side, and then rotate into the next role so everyone gets a turn.

Once everyone has had their turn, you debrief the exercise. What did everyone observe or learn from the exercise?

I can tell you I have received profound responses. From bosses who realize they do not listen, to salespeople who admit the same. People have told me how much they learned about the other person in only a short five minutes. The exercise exhibits the power of being present with someone.

First, from Person A’s standpoint, people express how unique it is to speak for five minutes without being interrupted. When is the last time they have been able to do that, so they can also feel they are being heard? Second, some admit they were not as articulate about a matter as they thought they were. I see this around career planning discussions. As Mary Kay so famously said, “Most people plan their vacations better than their careers.” Which is a fact. Third, they have their own internal dialogue going on about how what they say will be received.

The exercise can give an awareness for the person speaking, that maybe I need to get my act together a little bit better.

Now we debrief the Person B experience of sitting there like a monk, not being able to say anything. Of course, they are going nuts listening to all this stuff spinning around in their head, while they are trying to be a good listener. They may be wondering if this person has an agenda or is being truthful…while they are trying to be a good listener.  They may be thinking about what they said when their turn, or how they will sound when their turn. Or what they must go home to tonight, or they left this morning, or what they have to get back to at the office.

With so many conversations spinning around, we have to force ourselves to be good listeners!

Remember, five- minutes of intense listening is magical. Try it around any subject. Try it at the office tonight. Try it at home tonight. They will wonder what happened to you today.

Who will you listen to today?



Don Phin is an advisor, presenter, and coach. He lives in Coronado, CA and can be reached at don@donphin.com. Visit his website for lots of free learning and tools www.donphin.com

How to Hire Your First Coach

“Does coaching work? Yes. Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will.”

Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric

“To excel at the highest level – or any level, really – you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.”

Stephen Curry, NBA MVP and Champion

Even modest improvements can justify hiring a coach. An investment of $30,000 or so in an executive who has responsibility for tens of millions of dollars is a rounding error.

Jerome Abarbanel, VP of Executive Resources, Citibank

Executive coaches are not for the meek. They’re for people who value unambiguous feedback. All coaches have one thing in common, it’s that they are ruthlessly results―oriented.”

Fast Company


Most people have never hired a coach before. My coaches have been invaluable to my career and life in general. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting a great coach! The coaching journey often follows a five-step process as described below.

Step 1. The Initial Awareness

  • The need, want or desire for coaching usually comes from the feeling you are stuck. You wonder if coaching can help you grow beyond where you are today. You have a sense that “there is something better” that you are capable of…and you will do what it takes to get there.
  • You feel and want to meet the “high expectations” that come your way. As the Bible says “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This can feel like an overwhelming responsibility, and you want to make sure you are living up to it.
  • You like what you do…but want to be a better person doing it. Somebody suggested you might consider coaching…and so here you are!

Step 2. Why Coaching is Helpful

  • A coach is objective. A coach is not blinded by the stories you tell yourself. They can see your forest for the trees.
  • A coach is a great listener. They ask probing questions that cause you to dig deeper. Then they listen again, and again.
  • A coach is committed to your success. That is a coaches only agenda. They will be honest with you – even if that honesty hurts.

Step 3. Finding a Coach You Can Trust

  • Coaching is an intimate experience. Your coach must respect boundaries, keep confidences, and have their own act together.
  • Given my legal background, I know all about maintaining confidences. You can speak freely and openly and know it stays between us.
  • I have my act together. I keep a healthy balance between work, family, health, spiritual growth and finances. To stay on the path, I too have a coach.

Step 4. Experience It!

  • Coaching is an experience, not an intellectual exercise.
  • Most coaches, including me, will offer you a coaching experience at no cost.
  • You will experience being deeply listened to… maybe for the first time…in a long time.
  • You will receive honest feedback and coaching to improve the odds of meeting your most important goals.

Step 5. The Agreement

  • If you enjoyed the coaching experience, then come to an agreement with me or another coach and clarify your commitments.
  • You will be clear about objectives and goals, the number and timing of meetings, and the upfront fee.
  • Remember, coaching is not a “one and done.” It is an ongoing process for continuous growth and personal satisfaction.

You are invited to contact me by email at don@donphin.com or call (619) 852-4580 to schedule a complimentary coaching session and see if coaching can work for you!

66 Powerful Strategies for Great HR

Great HR represents a competitive advantage for your company and career. It affects you whether you are in HR…or not. In the 66 POWERFUL STRATEGIES FOR GREAT HR e-book I discuss the reality that half of all HR managers are more effective than the other half. It’s also a fact the top 10% of HR managers get healthy six figure salaries and a seat at the strategic table.

Would you like me to show you how to break away from the pack and launch into the stratosphere of the top 10%?

Not only am I happy to share this e-book… but for the first 10 people who contact me, I will provide a free one hour coaching session. There is no cost for this and no obligation of any kind. You will love the experience.

I offer this free session because I’m excited about helping HR managers make a difference… and get paid well for it too! I know that if you find value in my help, you may also be interested in one of my programs.

Here’s what you do next. If you want to schedule a coaching session, all you have to do is email me at don@donphin.com and let me know your availability. Once I have your information, I’ll do some research on you and your company and we’ll set up the time for our meeting. I promise to get back to you within 2 business days.

Here’s to your success, Don

Leadership and Self-Deception

The book Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute was a wake-up call for me. The deception is this: because my self-talk is I care my actions show I care.

Not so fast.

When giving presentations I challenge leaders to give me an example of how they showed someone they cared about them…and no, a paycheck doesn’t count. Usually a great deal of silence follows as they explore their memories for such an example. Some will talk about how they showed up for employees facing medical or family situations. For the rest, like it was for me, it is a wake-up call. We get our deception.

Unfortunately, when we run 75 miles an hour, it’s hard to show people we care for them because heck, we don’t even show ourselves we care for ourselves. We become numb and we engage in ongoing criticism as supposed to anything positive.

Check your head: when is the last time you showed somebody at work you care about them?

Go into your day intending to show people you care about them. How can you do that? Some ideas:

  1. Check in with any family concerns.
  2. Check in with how they are doing at work.
  3. Tell them something you admire about them.
  4. Listen to them with full presence.
  5. Go to lunch or take a walk with them.
  6. Write a personal note.

How will you show somebody you care about them today? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Designing Your Ideal Career Plan

The beautiful Mary Kay had it right when she said “Most people plan their vacations better than their careers.” I find this an accurate statement. On the occasions when I’ve asked a group of employees how many have a career plan it is rare to have more than one out of ten respond they do.

Everyone else spends more time planning their escapes than their career.

This business about career planning is true no matter your level at the company. Business plan, department plan, marketing plan…of course. Personal career plan…probably not.

Q: Why bother making a career plan?

A:  You get what you ask for.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Here is an excellent opportunity to work on your career plan…think about the all of it…and encourage others at your company to do the same.

What goes into a good career plan? Consideration of all the wants and needs that must be addressed in the diagram.

Give yourself the time and space to venture into your amazing future. Meditate on it. Journal on it. Talk to experts about it. And get super clear about it.

The schematic above shows how interrelated your career plan is. Let’s break down each one of these subjects… none of which are “in order”.

Personal situation – Your career plan will be different if you are 20 or 60. If you are single or married. If you love your job or hate your job. I can tell you that your career aspirations can cause damage to your personal life if they are not in alignment. I litigated cases for over 70 hours a week and sat on non-profit boards at the same time. The people who paid the price for those heroics were the people who mattered most, my wife and children. Hence the divorce. And a lot of pain.

Never forget the impacts your career choices have on the people you love most in your life…including you.

Career Goals- it seems as if career planning is much easier once we are clear on our goals. You may have the goal of running a successful law firm or get that V.P. role…only to find yourself exhausted and divorced and bankrupt…just like I was. Because I didn’t think about the all of it and have a career plan in alignment with it.

To do it right you begin with the end in mind. Both short term and long term. Think of how you would like to see your career in a year or two from now. Then think about your ideal long term career aspirations. A plan may be to land a steady job at a law firm right out of school, be on a partner track in five years and eventually be a top partner at one of the top law firms in the city. Or a plan could be to be a great barista within three months, manage the place within a year and own a franchise within three years. Just make sure if you get it…it’s want you really want and not somebody else’s idea for your life.

See the document I did Visualization Techniques for Success to help with this process.

Market demand – Your value in the market place depends on numerous factors including the industry you are in, your location, availability of skilled labor, competition, economy, etc. It is always helpful to know how you can increase your value in the market place and if you can’t then what market place will be best for your career? If your goal is to be in hospitality but you intend to stay in South Dakota I guarantee you’ll have limited career opportunities.

One way to get past assumptions and find out your value in the marketplace is to pay a recruiter for an assessment of that value…even if you are not looking.

Job description – This document defines who you are… whether you like it or not. And if you don’t like it then change it. Seriously. A lot of job descriptions are out of date and non-sense. Bottom line is to create a job description in alignment with the work you are doing. PS a good place to see job descriptions, career paths and more is https://www.onetonline.org

Company plans – Is it company on a growth path? How does it expect to continue to grow the bottom line? Can you see them doing well for another five years? What have they told you about the company finances or direction? If you work at a public company this information is readily available. At a private company you owe to yourself to find out what you can.

Career ladder – Assuming there is one, does the career ladder do a good job of defining the opportunities at your company and how does it align with your career planning? If the company has no formal career ladder process then understand what the informal process is. Don’t assume anything. Ask until you are clear.

Succession planning – Excellent companies do this and the poor ones don’t. There’s a natural flow of employees through any organization and managing it is either random and chaotic, or organized and well managed. Either way, find out where you fit in the scheme.

Performance management – Our career is greatly influenced by how we are managed. Are you 100% clear about expectations, tasks, goals, etc.? Do your performance management conversations come frequently enough? Are they focused on helping you to improve performance? Are you asking for the resources and support you need to perform at your best?

Your skill sets – Nobody’s going to hire me to manage their Excel spreadsheets. I can hardly drag myself to manage my own. Therefore it would not make sense for me to engage in a career path as a CPA. It’s important for you to understand what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing best. A simple exercise: write down the five things you think you do best from a skills standpoint and then circle those two things you enjoy doing most. Those two items are your sweet spot and you should try doing it more than half the day.

Compensation structures – How does the money line up with your career plan? One way to get compensated more is to stop doing low value work. For example if you are paid $100,000 per year you are paid roughly $50 per hour. You disservice yourself every time you do $25 per hour work. Even if you’re good at it. And can do it in your sleep. And won’t mess it up. And you won’t really have the time to train or show somebody else how to do it. And on and on and on.

You can’t become more valuable more until you stop doing low value work. Figure out how to automate it, outsource it, delegate it or eliminate it all together.

So there you have it. A diagram and a checklist to consider. I’m sure I missed something on the list but this is a good place to start.

Here’s to you great career, Don