Leading Blog






04.26.19

How to Use Discomfort to Drive High-Performance

The Coaching Effect

IT SHOULD go without saying that coaching as opposed to just managing people, is the key to developing high-performance organizations and teams. Leaders must be coaches.

Any growth but especially growth leading to high-performance requires a degree of discomfort. It is the job of the coach to maintain a healthy discomfort for those on their team. In The Coaching Effect, Bill Eckstrom and Sarah Wirth have created the Growth Rings model to show why exponential and sustained growth only occurs in a state of discomfort.

Growth Rings

The Growth Rings illustrate differing environments that exist in our world and how they either promote or hinder growth. Each ring encompasses one of four primary environments: Stagnation, Order, Complexity, and Chaos.

These primary environments could represent one’s dorm room, home, place of work, government, sports team, nature, and especially one’s body and mind.

Stagnation is a low-performing or low/no growth environment. “Stagnation is a situation in which people may need to follow too many steps, get someone else’s permission, or deal with minutia that stifles creativity, independent thought, or action.”

Chaos is the opposite of stagnation but is also characterized by low performance and low growth. This can be a temporary state and brought on by external forces. Chaos is characterized by uncertainty and a lack of control.

Order is the state we naturally gravitate to as it is the most comfortable. It is characterized by predictability and while in certain circumstances that can be desirable, it can also be catastrophic. Order doesn’t engender growth.

Complexity creates growth. When you change what you input into an environment, you trigger Complexity. The discomfort introduced by Complexity brings growth. You can’t permanently exist in this state because you need a degree of order. The job of a coach is to how and when to introduce Complexity for individuals and teams.

To define what a coach does, the authors introduced the Coaching Performance Equation:

Relationship + Order + Complexity = Performance


Obviously you introduce Complexity to Order because you want to achieve a certain level of performance. Healthy growth occurs when there is a proper blend of both Order and Complexity. The strength of your Relationships is critical because trust is essential to influencing others. “Relationships provide the foundation that allows coached to create more Order and Complexity, whichever is needed at a given time, in a healthy manner.”

Developing a trusting Relationship allows you to know what creates Order and Complexity for each member on your team, because Order to one may be Complexity to another. And great coaches know what unique buttons to push or levers to pull for each of their team members.

Of all the activities a coach can engage in, the authors found that these four are the most important in terms of obtaining results:

1. One-to-One Meetings: “Proactive, consistent ono-to-one meetings are necessary to generate trust, communication, and accountability with team members.” And probably the most important coaching tool. Certainly, a lack of coaching negatively affects the performance of a team, but so does too much. More is not always better. Their research shows that the best performing coaches had meetings very two or more weeks.

2. Team Meetings: Boring comes to mind. Rather than talking the whole time, this is s a good opportunity to listen and let the team members share ideas with each other. “Team members want information, ideas, and training so they can do their jobs better.”

3. Performance Feedback: Good feedback is a gift. Providing good feedback is a skill that coaches must develop. The foundation of good feedback is trust. It needs to be clear, positive, timely, and specific. Describe rather than evaluate. “If we could offer only one piece of advice to coaches who want to improve their feedback, it would be to ask more questions.”

4. Career-Development Plans: This is often overlooked but one of the most important activities to team members. This is not necessarily about promotions. “Instead, you, your team, and your organization must think of career development as a way to help people grow and develop their skills and experiences for whatever their current and future goals may be.”

You may have noticed that this requires a big time commitment and is probably the main reason most leaders avoid good high-performance coaching. They like the result but don’t feel they can take the time. In many ways it comes down to the fact that we like Order. But introducing good coaching, while it adds Complexity, brings desired results more than anything else a leader could do.

The authors begin the book by asking, what does it feel like to be coached by you? They conclude by asking, what should it feel like to be coached by you?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:37 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Change



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