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Coaching to Flourish #085: Assessment Tools and the Coaching Mindset

August 15, 2023 by Coach Training EDU

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In Coaching to Flourish #085, host Raj Anderson with guest John Andrew Williams delve into the transformative journey of self-discovery and growth through coaching assessment tools, the nuance of mindset, and the potential for manifestation. They also discuss the correlations between self-theory and mindset, and nurturing curiosity and congruence for personal development. Join us for this insightful episode!

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[Raj Anderson] Welcome everyone to the Coaching to Flourish podcast, and I'm your host, Raj Anderson. I am an executive life coach and coach assessor. And I'm excited, we've got John back, John Andrew Williams who is the founder of Coach Training EDU, and has been out for a couple of weeks. I heard some fun stories in a team meeting earlier, but how have things been with you, John?

[John Andrew Williams] Good. I got to go to the University of Oklahoma, Norman, they had the Higher Education Consortium. And it was amazing, it was amazing to see a space of coaches in higher ed doing the dream, doing what we dreamt about 20 years ago with coaching and education and what could happen. To see it in tangibility form, it was remarkable. So that is where I was last week. And so coming back still vibrating from that, and thinking, yeah, the world is changing. We are changing the world through coaching and education. And yeah, the excitement level is very high. 

[Raj Anderson] What was the best thing about that experience for you?

[John Andrew Williams] I think it was the feeling of the earnestness of the movement. Of the idea that this is something that has legs, it's going to keep going. And really looking at, the next step is coming up with a very clear definition of, this is coaching and this is how it differs from advising. And this is how advising differs from counseling, and this is how counseling differs from coaching. And just to have the very clear standards and definitions in all of those areas will allow coaches in higher ed, if they are advisors, to be clear with leadership, with students, with themselves, with even their job descriptions. Everything, of this is how this all works out in the university, and this is university best practice. And it's university best practice for these different departments to be able to speak to each other, to be in communication with each other, to work in concert with each other. And that was one of my main takeaways from the whole weekend, was the ripeness of the situation to create that, and to share it as best practice among the field.

[Raj Anderson] Well, I'm excited for us to talk more about that. And if there are any people who are coaches in higher ed, send us your questions. We can chat more about all of this as well. And as I listened to you, and thinking about alignment and difference and even diversity - we had a great team meeting earlier today, and you have some phenomenal people on your team and learning different things. And it kind of connects with some of the questions that I have for you today around uniqueness, or how do we bring our own energy and vibe to an experience. So, what words of wisdom or guidance do you have for someone who is attempting to figure out their uniqueness? 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah, that's a big question. I'm not even sure I have mine figured out, in terms of the energy, or whatever it is. I think there's an element of just, doing things for a larger mission and sake of something larger than yourself. And allowing that larger mission, allowing something for the sake of larger than yourself, to influence who you need to be in order to accomplish that goal. That was the path, or the question, how it was posed to me when I was in my mid twenties. And understanding about, when are you your most compelling self? And a lot of it is gathering feedback, asking for feedback, really going into feedback-gathering mode.

Just yesterday I was looking at growth mindset again, reading some of Carol Dweck's work, the book Mindset, and just going through the introduction. And what struck me was, like in a new way, was the way that she emphasized the link of how we see ourselves to how we show up to operating and gathering that feedback. And that is, it looks obvious when you look in the rear view mirror. But when you really think about the idea of, how do you find your most compelling self? That's a scary question. That is a question that really gets to the core identity of who am I? Am I worthy? Do I have worth? 

And people who feel like that worth is set, there's a certain hesitance to accepting challenges, or even challenging yourself, or failing. But people who believe they can grow incrementally, there's almost a yearning for feedback. There's a yearning for, when am I my most compelling self? That's a big question to ask, are you sure you really wanna know the answer? Or, you know, who's giving you that answer? In what context? In what way can you see it? And then you think, okay, we have all this technology to see ourselves. So you can do a recording and watch it yourself, and give yourself feedback.

And really, we cannot hear our own tone when we're speaking. The reticular activation system in our brains, it shuts off when we're speaking. That's why when we listen to our voice, it sounds so different because you're actually hearing the tone. So when we're speaking to someone, we are literally unaware of the tone that we're using. Our brains don't hear it. So you literally cannot hear yourself speak. And so everyone has an unintended impact. And it's understanding and asking people, okay, so when I'm speaking this is my intended impact. Where's the gap? Please help me. I can't hear myself. I need your help to help me figure this out.

That's the process that I believe people need to go through. I went through it in my mid twenties through a couple leadership programs. Teaching does that, running an organization does that, entrepreneurship will do that, coach training will do that. You get opportunities to explore different aspects of self. But again, all of it comes down to this idea of how well can you trust the process, and trust yourself to grow? If you can trust yourself to grow, then everything becomes an opportunity for learning and feedback. Really, I mean, failure transforms into feedback. 

[Raj Anderson] I love that question, John. When am I my most compelling self? It's something I'm gonna reflect on. It also reminds me, when I did the 2.0, one of the activities in there was to get a 360 feedback assessment, and it was incredibly valuable. Is that something you would recommend to individuals to go out and seek?

[John Andrew Williams] Depends. There's mixed reviews on 360’s. I think we've adjusted too, with, we stay on the cutting edge. And there was a time when 360’s were the rage, it was the thing to do. They can be treacherous. They can be very challenging in certain situations, and they can also be the most amazing, life-changing, insightful things as well. 

And I think what we're seeing are characteristics of these kinds of assessments, is if you're working with a coach and the coach filters the assessment, and there's a strong designed alliance with how is this information going to be shared, and ways that you can understand it and receive it, these can be life-changing events. But it takes a lot to look in this mirror. I'm curious Raj, what was your biggest takeaway from when you did your 360? What was the biggest thing that you got from that experience? 

[Raj Anderson] I think there was some validation. There's some things that were reinforced, because at that time I was also working on my brand. And we know that brand is what others say about us, not what we are saying about us. So I had been doing a lot of brand work, and the impact that I wanted to have, and the things that I would like people to say about their experience with me. So it was incredibly validating in that aspect, and I could see that people could feel my values. You know, my value of trust and integrity and creating space.

And then there was some surprises as well. There weren't surprises really, when my coach coached me on it. But I thought at the time, oh, this is a bit of a surprise, in terms of how I thought I was coming across, and perhaps how some people were experiencing it. And I've had this before in my career. Maybe the confidence, or even the accent or persona - it could be intimidating, is what somebody had shared with me. And I thought, wow, that's really not what I'm aiming for here. You know, what does this mean? How does it impact me? But I had a great coach. And I think it is really important when you are receiving feedback that you have somebody who can create that space to explore with you. Or, that's it - overthinking, inner critic, panic. You know, you get quite upset by seeing things that are personal about you. 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah. I'm thinking about some of the ones that I've done, feedback sessions. It's, good. Especially in the hands of a coach. I do not recommend doing them, getting the individual responses with no filter. That is just, no. There needs to be a lot of safety, a lot of design, all those things. 

[Raj Anderson] And I think what you are saying about the filter, the design, and also thinking about - I know I work with execs and organizations and sometimes 360's a part of a program. I would say if it's something that you want to do for yourself, really define your own purpose as to what you wanna get out of it. Like, why are you doing it? What do you want to get out of it? And I think that connects back to you talking about growth mindset, John. What is the impact when you have a growth mindset around these things? What would you say? 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah, even just listening to you talk, I was thinking how amazing it is that coaching - you know, it is just clicking on a deep level. But you know, here right now coaching brings a growth mindset to the space, naturally. Just as if some things will move people naturally to a fixed mindset, where you talk about - let's say numbers, grades, assessments. You know, tests. Those things tend to bring people to more of a fixed mindset, especially if it's something that they have to do, and it matters for some sort of reward at the end of the process. These are all like conditional fixed mindset go-tos. 

And the same way that we can temporarily move to a fixed mindset, people can also temporarily move to a growth mindset. And coaching as a practice, by its very nature, is a growth mindset practice. It's a practice that's asking, okay, how can you look at this challenge as an opportunity for learning? How can you take this opportunity? Even the assessments itself are looking for opportunities. Here's an opportunity to display this tactic, or to display this competency, or display this skill. The whole field itself is based on the premise that human beings are more effective when we emphasize learning and insights as well as taking action.

So there it is. A very bare bone theoretical basis for why coaching is effective. And when you look at the numbers of, the performance numbers of people who are in growth mindset versus fixed mindset, I would imagine that would mimic a lot of the benefits that you would see people who are coached versus not coached. That would be an interesting cross analysis. 

[Raj Anderson] It would. It would. And I'm sure you've had experience of coaching someone who maybe had a fixed mindset, or initially had a fixed mindset. What tips would you give new coaches around coaching someone with a fixed mindset? 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah. I think anytime there's something that's seemingly negative, or it doesn't make sense from a standpoint of peak performance - people tend to judge, I mean, people judge everything, especially themselves quite harshly. And what coaching will do is it will take away that judgment. 

And so the first thing, if you feel like you're working with someone who has an extreme fixed mindset, is as a coach yourself to stop judging the extreme fixed mindset, start getting curious about it. Asking questions like, what's interesting about having, being attached to the performance? When you feel like you have to prove your talent level, you have to prove your worth, what happens? You know, you get in there, you get curious about it. It's almost like the answer, the answer for everything is curiosity. You're just replacing judgment with curiosity. And trusting that when you do that, then whatever's there will naturally wanna shift, it will naturally wanna move. And then it will naturally shift towards a more useful place. 

Because that's what curiosity does, mindfulness does. You can look at it again and think, wow, like, I really am approaching the financial side of my business from a fixed mindset. Or, I really am approaching how I am parenting, or how I am partnering, or how I am taking care of plants, from a fixed mindset. And that's information. In a coaching session, once that happens and you asking what's the usefulness of it? Great. What's the uselessness of it? Okay, that's there too. Everything starts to become information. And then you're naturally in a growth mindset. You’re in information gathering mode. That is one of the hallmarks of a growth mindset, is your willingness to seek out information and look at it and have an accurate assessment of where you are, knowing that if you put an effort, you will incrementally get better.

[Raj Anderson] So you're making me think of also limiting beliefs that we all have. So where do, where does limiting beliefs fit with what you're talking about and the fixed mindset? 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah. What's amazing about growth mindset, the theory that Carol Dweck put together, is there is a direct correlation between the narrative or the theory that we have about ourselves, and how we show up in the mindset. So it's a one-to-one. Like when we have this certain self theory, then we have this mindset. When we have this mindset, we have this self theory. And when this self theory is missing, then we have a different mindset. And when that different mindset is there, the other one's not. So it's almost like all four different ways, if we're gonna have this wild diagram, that it checks out, and the correlation is both strong and robust, right?

So when you know that and you're thinking, okay, so what is a belief? It's a narrative. It's a story. It's something that we have about ourselves that is something that we hold so close to us that it's so hard. And then the question is, well, do we fight to defend that self theory? Do we make excuses about it? Or are we open and willing for, even the theory we have about ourselves, what we know about ourselves, are we open to to change? Are you open to change that story? And the incongruence between your story and what else is happening in your life, sometimes there's very little incongruence, sometimes there's a lot of congruence. There's a certain feeling to that. 

And I think what coaches get attuned to is you start to get a feel for your client's self theories, the stories, the narratives, the energetic in which they're talking about themselves. And then also into the evidence that’s showing up in their lives. And when there's a certain congruence between there, you feel it as a coach. Just getting curious, you start to move clients, curiosity will move clients more into congruence. Judgment tends to move people out of congruence. And it's because we want to distort what we're seeing so that it matches our narrative, so that we prove ourselves to be worthy. 

And that's my current theory on why coaching is so powerful, and why it lines up with, it really does line up a lot with growth mindset.

[Raj Anderson] And what about coaches themselves, John? How do they continue, or how should they continue to work on their own fixed or growth mindset? 

[John Andrew Williams] Well, the practice itself, coach training itself, is a growth mindset practice. Curiosity is the key. That's what unlocks all of this, is being curious and asking yourself, truly as an empathetic human, actively listening as if I am the other person, what am I genuinely curious about? That curiosity brings congruence. Curiosity brings congruence, judgment brings incongruence. It's simple. So as coaches, what we gotta do is stay curious about ourselves. Stay curious about our clients, stay curious about and trust the process.

I was talking to a friend and we're talking about how, what growth mindset doesn't say is, it doesn't say that we can wake up the next day and be a completely different human. Like just be, oh, growth mindset. I'm just going to be completely different, I'm going to go do this brand new thing and I can, you know, become excellent at it. Eventually, yes. But what it's really saying is it's incremental growth. 

The self theory is, I can become better if I put in effort. I can incrementally become better. Maybe it can become exponential at some point, but it's not as if we wake up when we're completely different people. That's not what it's saying. It's more around, you can become a little bit better version of yourself if you put in effort, but over time, that effort really does lead to excellence. That's what it's saying. 

I love the, I don't know what the word is, but there feels to be a level of, I don't know, solidness, to thinking about the incrementality of it that I've been really enjoying lately. I don't know where, I haven't quite figured out where it fits exactly, but it's been a recent insight, one I've really, really been liking lately.

[Raj Anderson] And you do catch up with yourself as well though, don't you, John? When you've been doing that work, especially when you're curious about yourself and the world, when the incongruence shows up, I find - cause it will still show up - I'm curious about it. Okay, what's happening here, or why has this showed up again? Or, I'm not in it for as long, I can move myself through it quicker. Or with the help of my coach, really explore through curiosity what it's there to show me. 

[John Andrew Williams] Absolutely. I think every person, when they shift more into growth mindset, there seems to be a larger appetite to stay in situations that might have before have been extremely uncomfortable. That appetite and that ability to stay in the uncomfort longer, while still in information gathering mode, starts to feel like a superpower. Like, you're just able to sit with and be with - and every personality and core motivation, they have their different challenge of being with - but being with those things over a period of time, that leads to empowerment. I feel like growth mindset is an empowerment based practice that coaching embodies to a large degree.

So if I was a new coach, I wouldn't worry about trying to be in growth mindset, or trying to be in fixed mindset, as much as simply just being aware of self narrative, of your narratives, and be more in information gathering mode. I know there's certain things I look back and cringe and go, oh, like, it's growing edges. And even to love those growing edges too, at a certain point. 

[Raj Anderson] Yeah, me too. So it's loving those growing edges, be curious, continue to observe yourself. And I reflect a lot on those narratives, I think Brene Brown calls it, what's the story I'm telling myself. 

I know we only have a couple of minutes left, and today's actually, for anyone that knows, it's 8/8, which astrologers refer to as Lion's Gate portal, which is around manifesting. So I've been setting my intentions, thinking about kind of what I am manifesting, and it connects directly to changing some of the narratives I've had about myself. What are your thoughts on that, John? That intentionality and manifesting? 

[John Andrew Williams] I think there is a lot, I imagine, in the next let's say 200, 300 years, that human beings are going to discover. And you look at what's happening in quantum physics, and the idea that our consciousness plays a role in the way that our particle, our wave shows up. And then there's all these ideas that we're all connected. If you look at 300 years ago, like what we thought about science versus now, and imagine that back then they thought, okay, we've learned everything there is to possibly know. You know, that was a real thought. Now I think human beings, the scientists of us say, yeah, this is where we're where we are. 

But what if 100, 200 years from now, they really discover, wow, this manifestation thing, which once seemed super woo woo, actually has a scientific basis, and this is the scientific basis of it. Wouldn't that be amazing? You know, who knows, right? So part of me thinks, I don't know, who knows, in manifestation. From a pure practical level of, does it work? Yes. And do we know how? I don't know. But I've just coached too many people, and I've seen it too many times in my own life, where if there is a vision for something that you want, and you know what that is, and the feeling state of it, the mental state of it, the perspectives that it will take - and you take action towards it, being open to learning, that's like the best strategy to accomplish that thing. 

So I think if you, certain people don't like going into the woo-woo idea of it, just switch out manifestation to visioning. You need to vision, you need to know the direction in which you're going and what you're really trying to achieve. Then you add action steps, then you become a dreamer and a doer, and that's a very powerful combination. But it takes the dreaming, we have to be dreamers, gotta be dreamers. I dream. Do family, you know, family dreams. It's alignment, you know, share your visions, share what you want to have happen.

And again, going back to the conference in Oklahoma, 15, 20 years ago, I was thinking, this is going to be something that happens in education. And then there it is. You're literally surrounded by 200 people who are coaches in higher ed, asking themselves the question, how can we make this more just a standard part of the college experience? That's amazing. 

[Raj Anderson] Collective visionaries. So I know we have to close out, but thank you for your words of wisdom and your guidance and the practical tips there. So if manifesting is sounds a bit woo-woo to you, it doesn't to me, I love it. That's why I wanted to bring it in. But I think just even that, changing up the language a little bit around visioning, and we've talked about a lot of vision work before. So I am grateful to you, John, and grateful to our listeners. Please send us your questions and look forward to listening next time. Is there anything you would add, John, before we close out? 

[John Andrew Williams] I have one thing. I do have one thing. So I have to say, my very first future self visualization, which I did back when I was 25, 27. And basically what is, for those who have not taken coach training, is you imagine yourself a certain number of years in the future. Maybe 5, 10, 15 years. And I did that, and I was imagining the house and the landscape and everything, and Amoise coming down the staircase, the whole scene, you know, the whole thing. And then when I was 37, when we moved out of our cross country trip to the house, this eerily looked exactly like the same house. The same kind of staircase, the same curve, the same kind of landscape, that kind of thing. To the point that it was eerie, right?

So what are you gonna do with that? Like, how do you start to rationalize those kind of experiences? You can't. What you can do is continue to take those action steps, continue to take the action steps toward the vision. Oh my goodness. It's, when it comes true, it feels like, you're living in a dream that you've already dreamt. So it's a little bit like deja vu, but at the same time it's, it becomes a tool. It becomes a tool for you to start doing even more, for you to take that next leap and go, okay, this is good, now let's amp it up. That's what I want to finish with. 

[Raj Anderson] I love that, John, and we need to chat more about that, cause it is like magic when that happens, isn't it? It really is. So I think just then, some words of wisdom from John. Like, what do you want to dream big on? 

[John Andrew Williams] Love the space you create. 

[Raj Anderson] Keep dreaming big. Thanks John. I'll see you soon.

[John Andrew Williams] Bye everyone.

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