Page 3 Coaching for Curiosity "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." (letter to Curt Seeling, March 1952) Albert Einstein “We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.” Sir Thomas Brown COACHING FOR PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION Quality theorist W. Edwards Deming often remarked that "personal transformation" was at the heart of learning to operate in a new way, in the way required for the optimization of people and companies. The question left to leaders, organizational effectiveness people, and functional managers is, "How do we create these personal transformations and the collective commitment necessary to activate this new awareness?" Each leader must invent a unique approach, since no existing model will fit the precise requirements of every organization. The ability to do so rests squarely in the leaders’ ability to coach people in a way that causes these personal transformations, or on a human level, what quality people describe as 2nd order changes, changes that transform the entire system. Curiosity is the central tool in Coaching for Superperformance. Without it, coaching is just doing what we have always done to persuade, coerce or control people—just using a sexier name. Doing this does not address the high-level issue or the root condition that has caused the problem. Coaching for Superperformance is not coaching to fix problems. Coaching for Superperformance is coaching for something else. Coaching for Superperformance liberates the brilliance, desire, intrinsic motivation and intelligence of the individual. It is the secret weapon that can release the Superhero in everyone. “Everyone is the Picasso of something.” Martin Sage The Coaching Myth The myth about coaching is that it is supposed to solve problems. Coaching does not solve problems. It does not motivate, instruct, or create accountability. The fatal flaw in most coaching processes or systems is that there is a missing, essential component, the part that shifts the interaction from a problem-solving process to a transformational experience. Coaching for Superperformance is not about the problem. Coaching for Superperformance is fundamentally about creating clarity. Clarity within the individual, clarity across the culture. Coaching for Superperformance operates out of the overarching belief that people are fundamentally brilliant, and the simplest, most graceful and respectful access to that brilliance is curiosity. When people recognize their inherent brilliance, where their light comes on, then they will get clarity. In his bestselling book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks famously about getting people in the right seat on the bus. While it is true getting people in the right seats can create better companies, we say that people sitting in the right seat is good, but the only way to create a truly Superperforming organization is for people to sit in the seat they want to sit in -- the seat that allows them to use their desire to leverage their unique talents and contribute in a meaningful way. Furthermore, if the seat they want to sit in does not exist on that bus, well its absolutely
Page 4 Coaching for Curiosity necessary that they get off that bus and find the one with the seat they do want to sit in. Again, finding the right seat is 1st order change; finding the desired seat is 2nd order change. What is Curiosity? Most dictionaries define curiosity as a disposition to inquire or investigate, gratify the mind with new information or objects of interest. In present theory and research, curiosity is defined as a positive-emotional-motivational system associated with the recognition, pursuit and self- regulation of novel and challenging opportunities. In coaching for Superperformance, curiosity is much easier to define. In the role of the coach, curiosity is navigating the unknown, not having to have the right answer and operating in a way that elicits the curiosity of the coached. Notice that none of these definitions includes coming to any conclusions or having the right answers. Familiarity is the opposite of curiosity. Operating out of familiarity is the biggest single mistake leaders and coaches make when dealing with individuals. Familiarity means I already know where you are coming from and I already know where you are going. Familiarity leaves no room for novelty. Perhaps this is why familiarity breeds contempt. If you have contempt in any personal or professional relationships we can say without a doubt that in those relationships curiosity is lacking. The problem with familiarity is that it limits innovation and the emergence of people by saddling them with the past. In other words, familiarity predicts future performance based on past performance, which almost always guarantees that future performance will mimic past performance. This is appropriate for the performance of processes and systems (predictability), but not so for people. Curiosity allows for the possibility of different performance, not based on the past but based on the future, based on innovation and potential. Coaching for ‘performance management’ and problems obligates the coachee to continue similar performance and actually minimizes transformation through successive approximations toward conceptual goals. Coaching for potential and desire allows for divergent thinking and unlimited performance, resulting in discontinuous leaps in performance and speed of results. This is one reason why affirmative inquiry has so much cachet; it is based on wins, not losses. Most companies insist that they want their employees to innovate. But ask the average person at work if they are paid to innovate or to be right. Nine out of ten will say “Oh, I am paid to be right.” How do they get this message? In the everyday workplace they are punished for the mistakes it takes to innovate and rewarded for getting it right the first time. It is impossible to innovate and be right every time. Just ask Edison. So, in our organizations we inadvertently squash people’s curiosity and brilliance and thus their innovation by creating an environment of fear of making mistakes. The person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. In the absence of curiosity people are subjected to this double bind in almost every organization across the country. Superperforming organizations do not bind their people in this way. They allow for mistakes and have a culture that allows the system to learn from them. They create an environment of trust, not fear.
Page 5 Coaching for Curiosity “The only sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to learn faster than your competitors.” Arie de Geus How Does Curiosity Work? If you are saying to yourself at this moment, "I know I am curious and innovative," that in itself suggests a fundamental lack of curiosity. To the extent you think you understand that statement you are not curious. True curiosity is not knowing, even when you think you do. Not knowing is the only way to unleash the brilliance in others and allow the space for true personal transformation to emerge, that process that Deming and others recognized as essential for the optimization of organizations and people. “People don’t need to be managed, they need to be unleashed.” Richard Florida Leading research on curiosity indicates that curiosity is a core emotion in animals and humans. Much of the research in this area was influenced by the ideas of William James, father of American Psychology, who regarded fear (anxiety), anger (rage), and curiosity as genuinely instinctive. Influenced by Darwin, James observed that attention is a limited resource and that individuals tend to focus on stimuli fostering excitement or personal meaning. In evolutionary terms, attraction to novel stimuli is adaptive because it increases knowledge. Individuals with strong curiosity have a specific advantage in life because attention is more fluid, and novel ideas, objects, and relationships can be found, enjoyed, explored, and integrated into a continually expanding self. In principle, these aspects of curiosity aid survival – for example, finding plants with medicinal properties, increasing social resources, discovering new habitats. Curiosity prompts proactive, intentional behaviors in response to stimuli and activity with the following properties: novelty, complexity, uncertainty and conflict. . How Does This Influence the Emergence of Superperformance? Coaching for Superperformance is founded in curiosity. In this new world, if you are not curious or able to illicit curiosity in others, then you won’t have a viable coaching product or process and cannot unleash the Superhero, the intrinsic motivation that exists (and is usually trapped) in others. Once curiosity is engaged and clarity has been achieved, then the door to Superperformance will spring wide open. Curiosity causes Clarity. Clarity creates Velocity. Velocity = Better Performance. Better Performance Sustained Over Time = Superperformance.
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Page 7 Coaching for Curiosity REFERENCES 1. Christopher Peterson and Martin E.P. Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues A Handbook and Classification, American Psychological Association, Oxford University Press, 2004 2. Todd B. Kashdan, Paul Rose, and Frank D. Fincham, Curiosity and Exploration: Facilitating Positive Subjective Experiences and Personal Growth Opportunities, Journal of Personality Assessment, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. 2004 3. Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t, Harper Collins, 2001 4. W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2002.
Coaching for CuriosityABOUT MATTISON GREYMattison Grey, M.Ed IAC-CC is the founder and President of Greystone Guides. She holdsa Masters Degree in Education from the University of Houston, and has been certified as amaster coach by the International Association of Coaches (lAC). Mattison is a seasonedbusiness consultant and executive and leadership coach, sales trainer, relationship skillsexpert, and platform speaker. She has been catalyzing teams, individuals, and organizationssince 1997.She has trained and coached police officers and cadets, entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, highlevel executives and functional managers in a variety of organizations and settings. Hercurrent and past clients include executives from well known Fortune 500 companies, toptier management consulting firms, major universities, prominent hea1thcare institutions, aswell as nonprofit and government agencies. Among others, she has coached groups andproject teams at Shell Oil Company, Igloo Corporation, The City of Houston, Amoco,YMCA, GMAC, Aramark., The University of Houston, Rice University, and PellaWindows and Doors. Mattison is a member of the International Association of Coachingand a professional member of the National Speakers Association (NSA).In 2005 she began a collaboration with the University of Houston designed to develop anddeliver a peer coaching curriculum for broad deployment in organizations. That projectevolved into The University of Houstons Executive Coaching Institute, where Mattisonserves as the program coordinator and lead instructor. The program curriculum includescoaching tools for formal and informal leaders, high performance, and goal achievement.Mattison is serves as a Senior Advisor, Coaching Products, and Partner in Corpus Optima.In this capacity she is responsible for the design and implementation of Corpus Optimasproducts and services related to Coaching for Superperfomance.She maintains a successful one-on-one and group coaching practice, leads live seminars ina variety of related areas, and speaks frequently and passionately about coaching and theemergence of people. She has written numerous professional articles and white papers andis at work on a new book. Map to the Zone, examines Coaching as the core force behindthe next generation of distributed leaders, where the most successful people will bethose who can bring out the best in others. Mattison believes Coaching provides a powerfulframework to transform special knowledge and skills into focused relationships whichuncover, awaken, and catalyze the intrinsic motivation in all people at work.