I’m just back from this year’s conference in Washington, DC sponsored by ICF Global. This is the fifth one I have attended, and it’s always a great experience to be able to hang out with 1,600+ coaches for a few days and learn from them. I was also delighted to bump into and reconnect with about forty of my Georgetown coaching buddies while there.
I thought I’d share a few nuggets I picked up at the conference which I thought those of you who were unable to attend might enjoy learning. So here goes:
We all have 1,440 minutes per day every day.
That number is not going to change. A core, foundational set of challenges our clients are experiencing is how to manage their individual world in which each day there are more and more things to do (or they could do) when the number of minutes stays the same. Whether we blame the news, social media, etc. for the multiplying choices we all experience each day, the fact is many of us, and our clients, don’t have an effective method of deciding what to pay attention to and what to ignore. In some ways you might consider that the hardest part of our clients’ work is choosing and prioritizing. As one speaker at the conference put it, “about 99.9% of the things competing for our attention are crap.”
The great thing about coaching as a way of supporting someone else’s development is that we have so many different ways to be useful to them as they build the capacity to choose and prioritize more effectively. They range from very concrete, skills based techniques such as how to run a meeting, how to delegate, how to prioritize using sources such as David Allen’s, Getting Things Done series of books and workshops all the way to very deeply personal values work we so often do with our clients. As professionals we are fortunate that we have so many different levels through which we can help the client address the sometimes overwhelming number of choices that can be so frazzling.
What I took away from this reminder that “busy-ness” is the affliction of our times is that we almost always have to address this in some way in our coaching before any of our other work can have effect. For me, the take away is that whether the client asks for it or not, I should be paying attention to the necessity that at least a part of my work with my client has to address the busy-ness, overwhelm, and drowning that is so limiting to my client’s ability to learn and grow. The other, good stuff we’d like to work on can’t be addressed effectively if this is not as well.
The 1,440 minutes for Managers
The nature of managerial work is they can only get their work done by using a portion of someone else’s life. It occurs to me that great truing thoughts and questions for managers might be to consider the implications of requiring another person to use up a certain number of minutes of their life that they can never get back and ask themselves, “Am I recognizing the value of the other person’s 1,440 minutes (to them, not just to me) when I ask them to do something?” I predict that if managers thought that way consistently there would be less wasted time, boring meetings, and employee dissatisfaction than is now the case. It’s a fundamental matter of respect for the significance and value of what most managers are thoughtlessly asking the people whom they manage to give up in order to get the job done.
Engagement with work, with life
In a recent survey, less than 10% of respondents answered “yes” to the question, “Can you achieve your dreams where you work now?” The bigger question for clients that popped into my mind was, “Can I achieve my dreams as I am now leading my life?” And of course, if the answer is, “no,” what am I going to do about it?
Like everything else in coaching, what is good for the client is also good for the coach. So we have to ask ourselves, too, I think, “Can I achieve my dreams in the way in which I’m doing my coaching work and running my coaching business?”
We coaches are not competing with each other for clients. We are competing with everything else our potential clients could be paying attention to right now.
Bottom line is we have to deliver more value in a shorter period of time than ever before.
“Wildly successful” coaches build their businesses daily. Just a consistent commitment of 9 minutes each day can make a huge difference. The tasks done during that repeated short block of time could be posting comments on someone else’s work, sending invitations on Linked in, working on an article, reaching out to former clients, whatever. What was most eye catching to me about this concept was to learn that just 9 minutes each working day adds up to a full work week over a year’s time. Maybe it’s something about human nature or perception, but I would never have guessed that 9 minutes a day, five days a week would add up to a full work week over a year’s time. if I only have to pay 9 minutes at a time to get a week’s worth of direct effort toward building my business, it seems like a pretty good deal to me.
Is there a bottom line here?
As I have read and re-read what I have written here about the conference, the themes that show up for me are:
- Time – it’s limitedness and value
- The overwhelming number of choices we have on how to use our time
- Most of the things clamoring for our time are either not worth it or not good for us
- Choosing what to do and, more importantly, what not to do is hard
- Many of us don’t know we can exercise choice and just say no
- In a way respecting our own and others’ time is akin to respecting the limited amount of life force they, and we, have available
- Spoken differently, not respecting our own and others’ time is either blind or mean
- Neither we nor our clients have to put up with things that either aren’t good for us or don’t bring us joy
- The world needs coaching
- Who takes care of the coaches?
Obviously, there was much more to the conference than I conveyed above. I encourage each of you to find a way to attend one of these ICF global conferences. It is well worth your time and money.