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Listening to Connect: Neuroscience, Coaching, and Conversational Intelligence

As a credentialed coach, it’s important to stay educated on new and improved methodologies that resonate with clients. Recently, I began a 7-month course on Conversational Intelligence, (also known as C-IQ) facilitated by Judith E. Glaser.

The curriculum explores how parts of the brain influence the outcome of conversations. Just two weeks in, I can already tell how valuable this will be for my clients.  As a coach, I recognize that if clients are in fight/flight mode, it is very difficult for them to find solutions to any problems. Now I have language and context for why.

Harnessing Your Executive Brain

When we are in flight/flight mode, we are operating from our primitive brain, generating cortisol that shuts down our ability to be creative, strategic and engaged. So where do we want to operate from and how do we get there?

The prefrontal cortex (the area of the third eye) is called the executive brain. If an interaction feels safe, we produce oxytocin, which allows us to relax and create a state of trust. This gives us access to empathy, strategic thinking and innovation. When we are able to operate from this place in the brain, we begin to see opportunities for co-creating solutions together.

Listening to Connect

We move from protecting our own self-interest to creating a “WE-centric” way. The first step is: listen to connect. This is not a concept gaining traction just in the coaching field. There has been research published in Harvard Business Review on the power of connecting first.

In Judith’s words, “Everything happens through conversation. Coaches hold the key for transformation of humanity.”

Helping You Get to the Next Level

As we move through the modules, I will share some key “ah-has” and will incorporate these tools into my new coaching offerings that will roll out in Spring 2017. Stay tuned for more tips to have meaningful conversations that transform leaders and organizations.

Interested in coaching? Learn about the coaching process and more!

 

Photo credit: Rawpixel via Shutterstock.

Nonprofits on the Move with Mergers

Too often discussions around nonprofit partnerships and mergers focus on the financial drivers. For example, one nonprofit may be in crisis and rather than shutter operations, it seeks to form a new organizational structure with another, more financially robust organization.

But there is another important reason nonprofit leaders should consider exploring partnerships: mission impact. This plays out in a variety of ways.  If you are successful in achieving your mission, then it stands to reason that over time, your mission may need to evolve. Or perhaps your client population has shifted dramatically with the region’s changing demographics? Or better still, what if the social problem your organization originally formed to address dramatically improved or changed?

Lessons from San Francisco and Beyond

Such pivots are currently apparent in the nonprofit subsector of HIV/AIDS-related services. Many nonprofits, founded 30 years ago, focused on an acute public health crisis impacting a smaller demographic segment of the population. But over the decades, as new drug treatment modalities became available and as the disease spread across other demographic segments, the service models and organizations had to adapt to the chronic, long-term needs associated with supporting HIV positive clients.

This summer, the San Francisco Chronicle and Nonprofit Quarterly reported how “Clients have gone from young men who were dying at 25 to older patients who, at 55, are still living. Currently, more than half of the people with HIV in San Francisco are 50 or older. Improved safer sex practices and advances in drug therapies and medical treatments have shrunk the client base dramatically; some agencies serve half the number they did in the mid-1990s.”

These trends have led some nonprofits to shift focus. For example, food services for clients have evolved to serve healthier food for those also living with diabetes and heart disease. Other nonprofits have merged together to provide a range of services around housing, mental health, or substance abuse prevention, in addition to HIV/AIDS-related support.

The need for HIV/AIDS nonprofits to refocus their operations has not been limited to the San Francisco Bay Area. New partnership models, collaborations, and mergers have taken place throughout the U.S. For example, Vista Global supported the cultural integration process for the merger of the AIDS Network and AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

Photo: AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW). Grand Opening of new Medical Home. June, 2016.
Photo: AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW). Grand Opening of new Medical Home. June, 2016.

Exploring the Implications for Other Sectors

The rapid changes in the HIV/AIDS-related space offer lessons that can be applied across sectors. For example, to survive the wake of the Great Recession, arts nonprofits explored a range of collaborations.  City government agencies are considering mergers as well, as highlighted by the recent merger of the offices of Homelessness and Welfare for New York City.

With the fallout from the U.S. housing crisis, social service nonprofits also have to pivot as the face of the homeless population changes. Currently, Vista Global is working with four nonprofits serving the homeless population to explore program collaboration and merger options.

Are the leaders of your nonprofit considering a program collaboration or merger? Share your story in the comments section below or contact Mary today to learn more.

Coaching Helps You Tell Your Story

Crafting a personal tile is a fun way to express your story and future goals. A great exercise to help focus your life and career coaching, the tile itself can be made from cardboard, paper, fabric, or any two-sided material.  Get creative!

Getting Starting with Side 1 of Your Personal Tile

The first introspective step in this exercise is to craft your personal narrative. To complete Side 1, you’ll need to decide what words define and describe your personal story, from your origins to you current journey.

Begin at the top of your tile and write your name, birthplace, and favorite food.

Then, write the numbers 1 through 6 down the left side of the tile, under your name.  This portion of the tile will be used for your Six-Word Introduction.

Channel Your Inner-Hemmingway

You may have heard the legend that Ernest Hemmingway was once asked to write a novel in six words. His reply was “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” With those six words, Hemmingway conveyed a sad tale of love and loss.

The first step in your Personal Tile exercise is to craft six words that describe your personal story. The words can be fun and cheeky, or serious and heartfelt. The most important aspect is to describe yourself.  Here are some examples:

  • Love drama. Just not my own.
  • Legacies are the people you touched.
  • Without work, what would I do?
  • Laboring more at love than anything.
  • I knew nothing, I felt everything.
  • I’m happiest when I’m outside.
  • My small stories have big plots.

You can find these examples and more at the Six-Word Memoir archive.

Plotting Your Goals with Side 2 of Your Personal Tile

Every Vista Global discovery coaching session explores 6 key themes. Building on the work done in your initial coaching session, use the tile to write out your reflections on each theme.

TileSide2image

Draw 2 concentric circles on your tile. Then draw a line to dissect the inner circle into 2 halves. Then, draw 4 lines to create four sections of the outer circle.

  1. Values: The values that I confirmed in the discovery coaching session
  2. Strengths: My Top 5 strengths
  3. Contribute: What do I commit to contributing to the process?
  4. Learn: What do I want to learn as we move through my journey?
  5. How do I work: How do I work well? What allows me to do my best work?
  6. Leave With: At the end of my coaching sessions, what do I want to leave with?

Participants of Vista Leadership Academy kick-off their journey with this Personal Tile exercise in addition to a robust curriculum for goal setting. If you’re interested in learning more about the Academy or about Vista Global’s coaching services, contact Mary today!

Be a coach, not a boss.

Are you struggling to motivate your team or cohort of grantees? Do employees at your organization complain of an “us vs. them” management atmosphere? Do your company’s entry-level positions, most often staffed by young Millennials, turnover often?

As a leader, you need to rely on principles that get the most out of each member of your team. So stop being their boss and start being their coach. From the perspective of a coach, you can create a dream team with positive lasting impact.

VGCC-coachboss

Play to Strengths

Don’t focus on managing down. Instead, as a coach, spot each team members’ strengths, see how those strengths complement the strengths of other staff, and play to those combined strengths for shared success. Tom Rath, author of StrengthsFinder, writes “People have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.”

Calling the Next Generation off the Bench

As a new generation enters the workforce, leading as a coach has never been more important. Recent Gallup research shows that Millennials are seeking fulfillment in work over faith or family. In fact, young workers place more value on opportunities to learn and grow over income. To avoid younger staff leaving or checking out, coach and guide them to find passion in their work.

Where to Start

Ready to lead as your organization’s inspirational coach but don’t know where to begin? Take the first step by learning more about your teams’ strengths. Vista Global offers StrengthsFinder coaching designed for teams who are looking to build on each other’s skills. Contact Mary today and begin your journey from boss to coach.

Image source: Partial infographic excerpt from “The difference between a boss and a leader” by J. Shriar, Officevibe.com

Every great nonprofit begins with a great board.

Vista Global offers a variety of workshops and trainings. But the high demand for trainings on board governance remains constant.  Board members are hungry for guidance on defining their roles and responsibilities. Board development is not a simple one-time activity, but a continuous cycle of self-reflection and self-improvement.

board-meeting

In our workshops, we explore different governance models and their benefits. Some organizations thrive using the Policy Governance Model designed by Dr. John Carver.  While other nonprofits may benefit more from Community-Engagement Governance, a framework designed by Judy Freiwirth, that shares governance responsibility across the organization’s constituents, community members, staff and board.

Another key component of these trainings is the importance of a great working relationship between the Executive Director and Board Chair.  In fact, certified mediator and consultant Joan Garry believes the relationship between the Executive Director and Board Chair “tells you more about the health of a nonprofit than any other single factor.”

Best practices don’t end with the board members sitting around the table, either.  Board members have a responsibility to identify and recruit the future board leaders, too. Our workshops explore the entire board development life cycle.

Your organization is only as healthy and effective as your board. Interested in learning more about nonprofit governance? Read more about Vista Global’s workshop offerings and contact Mary today!

Culture First: Tips on Nonprofit Merger Success through Organizational Cultural Integration

Too often people think of nonprofit mergers as a frantic survival strategy for organizations in a state of financial crisis. However, robust nonprofit organizations are using a range of partnership, consolidation and strategic alliance models not to survive, but to thrive.

MergerStrongerOrg

In early 2015, AIDS Network and AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) announced their merger, supported by a grant from the AIDS United Sector Transformation Initiative. The organizations were not in crisis. The merger goal was to combine two strong organizations and expand services to patients and clients.

“Wisconsin has always been a national leader in the fight against AIDS. Our merger will enhance this leadership position. By combining the best of our two organizations, we will enhance services, improve clinical outcomes, and generate new financial resources, all of which are critical as we continue on our quest for a world without AIDS.”

– ARCW President & Chief Executive Officer Michael Gifford.

Some Merger Integration Do’s and Don’ts

Vista Global Coaching & Consulting facilitated the negotiations and the organizational integration for AIDS Network and ARCW.  The continuity of consulting support over the course of both phases expedited the entire process. The timeframe from the initial conversation of the negotiation team to the celebration of the merger integration process was 18 months.  Although the process was efficient, it was not without intention and focus.

Don’t Ignore Culture in the Negotiation Phase

Honor important cultural elements of pre-merger organizations. Surface and address historical challenges in relationships between organizations to move forward in creating a new narrative. Sensitivity to power imbalances and strategies to mitigate those imbalances from the beginning of negotiations, sends the clear message to staff of both organizations that we are in this together to create a stronger organization that will better serve clients.

It is important to build relationships among the negotiation team members and develop a shared vision. Crafting ‘Strategic Intent Statements’ supports transparency and documents a process rooted in good faith which allows the group to point to that shared intent when there are bumps along the way.

Do Make Culture the First Priority in Integration

It is easy to launch into the systems and structural integration elements of combining two organizations but there is great risk in not putting emphasis on culture as the first priority.  Without this focus, it is easy for staff to stay locked in the pre-merger cultures and fall into “us v. them” perspectives.  Building an integrated culture is critical for long-term success.  Cultural integration requires intention, structure and tools to support the transformation.

To begin a cultural integration process, it can be helpful to use an assessment tool that provides an objective framework of the cultures of the combining organizations. In the AIDS Network-ARCW integration process, we used the Organizational Culture Assessment Inventory (OCAI). The tool allowed the merger integration team to look at the existing cultures and determine the preferred culture moving forward.  Identifying the vision of the preferred culture and the behaviors and beliefs that align with that preferred culture sets the course for “being the change we want to see” in the new organization.

Leadership Takeaways and the Return on Investment

Leaders need to understand when it is important to push for rapid changes and when it is more important to pause, listen, and allow members of the organization time to process. In the integration phase, building a “guiding coalition” of staff from all levels of both pre-merger organizations is a critical success factor.  The ARCW Merger Integration Team had 14 staff members.  These individuals became the change agents as the structural integration process began.  Eight work groups were established that included approximately 50% of all employees.  Even though ARCW is a statewide organization with 10 offices, every staff member was engaged in the integration process.

Strong nonprofits considering merger will be most successful if they go beyond just negotiations and invest financial resources, time, and staff in the integration process. Invest in a structure of internal leadership combined with external consultant support. Create early wins before and after the merger to maintain the momentum necessary to build a new organization.

Organizational culture can be abstract or intangible. A nonprofit’s culture is the sum of many parts. For a successful cultural integration, leaders need to acknowledge the value of each part.  The successful AIDS Network and ARCW merger integration is proof that cultural integration is possible when leaders invest in the process.

What is your experience in cultural integration?  We would love to learn more from you about this critical success factor. Contact Mary today!