Attempting to lead vacationers and prisoners is always an uphill battle
In developing my coaching skills, I’ve needed to learn a few tricks of the trade. One is a heightened ability for engagement detection. Another is gain skills for improving the mindset of the disengaged. Here’s some simple ways to do-it-yourself.
I’ve learned to observe both my clients and participants and place them into three categories: achievers, vacationers and prisoners. So, how do we recognize the members of these categories?
- Achievers are open to change and improvement and are motivated to improve their situation.
- Vacationers are along for the ride. They had an interest in improvement but aren’t willing to step outside of their comfort zone, commit to doing their push-ups and engage in making meaningful changes.
- Prisoners believe they’ve been sentenced to serve their time in developmental confinement. They want nothing more than to have that time pass. A negative attitude and related behaviors are part of the package with prisoners.
I learned early on the importance of recognizing vacationers and prisoners and working to convert them into achievers. Might this be equally true for you?
When developing teams or groups, I typically negotiate the authority to release the prisoners, as needed. It is true what they say about one bad apple spoiling the bunch. Prisoners are bad apples. For one-on-one coaching engagements, I am careful to avoid scenarios where I am assigned a prisoner with little motive to change. Without that motivation, we’re all wasting our time and money while setting ourselves up to fail.
My First Vacationer: A Moment of Truth
Nine years ago I was an executive coaching rookie. I was working with four member management team to develop their strategy and leadership skills. At our second conference, the owner and President announced that he “didn’t have time” to complete the assigned work. He was, after all, the boss. And he felt that his status allowed him to skate. It was a fork in the road, moment of truth in the engagement and our relationship. Did I dare to challenge the person signing my checks? Or should avoid ruffling any feathers, sweep it under the rug and move on?
Fortunately I had secured a verbal commitment for timely completion of their assignments from each member of the team. And, I understood that the owner had provided me a golden opportunity to offer a lesson in the relationship between integrity and leadership. I was trained to challenge vacationers who didn’t live up to their promises. So I seized the moment without hesitation. While putting my momentary conversational comfort ahead of the purpose of the engagement made little sense, it required courage. But at that moment, his vacation ended. Their company went on to achieve unprecedented success in the succeeding months. Our relationship remains strong to this day. Plus, I also learned the value of putting a client relationship at risk for the sake of their success.
How are your Engagement Detection Skills?
Might you benefit from enhanced Engagement Detection skills? What if you were better tuned in to the attitudes on your teams? Observe the body language around your conference table, place your participants in my three categories and ask…
- Have you been attempting to work with vacationers or prisoners?
- Can you convert them to being engaged in the task at hand?
- Or, would everyone be better served is you just released your prisoners.
Now, Look in the Mirror
Should you find yourself mentally serving time, take one of my GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE cards for free. Make a conscious choice to let go of this mindset. It serves no one.
“People’s minds are like parachutes – they only function when they are open.” -Leanne Hastie
Returning from the Dark Side
Since I discovered and converted that first Vacationer, I’ve helped many others to decide to do the push-ups they need to achieve bigger and better things. I’ve also succeeded converting some of my Prisoners to transition to Achiever status. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Those Prisoners who are unable to discover their motive for change are better off being freed. Where there’s no will, there’s no way.
To keep it simple, here’s my process for improving engagement:
- Detect the level of engagement
- Figure out how everyone can win
- Communicate the win and the responsibilities
- Secure commitments and hold everyone accountable, including yourself
I said these are simple. I don’t promise that they’re easy. Should you struggle, let me know if I can help.