Why Working With the Best is Such a Treat

Yesterday I had the honor of coaching judges on their presentation skills at the Ohio Supreme Court.

What a humbling, career-energizing experience this was for me!

I have told many audiences – including yesterday’s – that I enjoy coaching presenters of two types: those who are the top 20% of speakers in an organization, especially as they enjoy speaking, get excited about tips and new insights and will immediately employ feedback and advice.

Also I enjoy working with those who are uncomfortable speaking – those in the bottom 20% of the presentation group (at least in their minds) – who are anxious about the experience yet are motivated to gain some comfort either through some structure or a reframing of their own assets.

In yesterday’s experience I was given a half-dozen judges who were the experienced, and in my eyes, the cream of the crop. Although I sometimes have to put myself in check when in their audience – knowing I can perhaps learn as much from them as they may from me, but also because I fear I may have nothing to offer them. A group like this, when encouraged to self-critique, is generally harder on themselves than I am.

Such was the case yesterday. Given the chance to share an opening 90-second talk, they each presented to the group with the understanding their peers would also offer feedback alongside mine.

I love the adult learning that happens with group work! We often resist these experiences because they put us in the spotlight during times we may stumble, but also help us learn what we are good at. These positive insights are what lift and motivate us even more.

As each of the presenters spoke, their peers were commenting on 3×5 cards what they liked. After all had spoken, I directed them back to each presenter to ask them to rate their efforts, then to share what they liked, and then I let the peers share their comments. As I expected from this talented yet humble group – judges humble? YES! – they were harder on themselves, at first deflated by their performance, then as their peers commented on what worked well their spirits lifted and they were able to hear my input with eagerness also.

Within 30 minutes they were on their feet a second time, yet not until they individually identified what it was they wanted to do more of or get better at. Then in the second presentations – wow! What immediate results! Not only did the presenters themselves feel the difference, the audience did. Measureable success!

So how is this different from working with the more anxious speaker? First, it takes them longer to prepare and actually get up to speak. While their attitude is stuck in the need to be perfect, their communication is steeped in asking questions vs. taking action. However, with this group I enjoy the process of slow, deep, coaching and consulting. But that’s not what I wanted yesterday in the group scenario. I needed people willing to prepare thougths, ready themselves mentally and get up and deliver.

When you want those immediate results, you seek the best. Why? Because what makes them good at things already is their attitude about receiving guidance. It’s their faith in the common good and their willingness to do the right things. These are their primary drivers – judges included. Perhaps judges as much as anyone!

So when I heard them expressing things passionate to them, things they really want to make a difference with, I was in awe. I know they also may get the power to make some of these changes, and with a bit of delivery polish, they are that much closer.




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On October 26th, 2012, posted in: action, attitude, behavior, career, coaching, trust by