10 Questions that help you get to know someone

As someone that is very curious about people, I’ve been reading a lot about the best way to get to know people and get below the surface of typical conversations. Whether this be a casual conversation with a work colleague, interview, networking event, or party, I feel like a lot of the questions that we ask are very much surface level and don’t help us actually connect with others. The difference between “what have you been up to recently,” and some of the questions below are crucial in developing deep relationships and trust with people.

With that being said, I’ve been on a journey to figure out what are some good questions that get people to open up and get you to really know them. Because of how uncommon a lot of these are to bring up in a normal conversation, I usually preface them with, “I know this is a bit uncommon, but I like asking questions that are different than the norm,” to provide the safe space to ask them. A lot of times when you ask questions like this, people’s faces will light up because they believe the conversation can actually go somewhere, but one person just needs to take the initiative to make it happen. Below are 10 questions I like to ask to get to know someone better.

  1. What is one thing you thought was true that you no longer believe to be true?
  2. What’s one story from your life that best describes you?
  3. When have you failed?
  4. What is a new skill you have learned in the last few years?
  5. What can you not live without?
  6. What is your morning routine?
  7. If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what would it be?
  8. What do you want to be remembered for?
  9. What is the biggest decision you’ve made in your life and why was it such a big deal?

And then one final one that I’ve heard recently that really can change your conversations with co-workers and those people where you always seem to have negative conversations.

10. What’s not wrong with your life?

And then just keep asking it over and over until the person begins to feel grateful for everything they have going on.

Four Tips for a New Manager

Some of the individuals inside my company that I have been coaching are first-time managers that are trying to figure out how to be the best manager they can be. A lot of them express concerns over being a “young” manager and are worried that because the people they manage are sometimes only a year younger, how can they gain their respect? I’ve had so many conversations about this topic, and love when my coachee walks out of the conversation feeling more comfortable as a manger. Given how many times I’ve gotten this question and talked this through with newer managers, I wanted to share four ways to establish yourself as a strong manager early in your career:

  1. Understand age has no bearing on being a good manager

I’ve mentioned this before in my blog, but we are almost always our own biggest critic. We often view ourselves as not as good or less experienced then others view us especially if we tend to look younger in appearance. When I ask people, what makes a good manager, I often hear things like being a good leader, communicating well, being well-organized, knowing when to delegate or not, and understanding how to treat people well. None of those areas have anything to do with how much experience someone has in the working world comparative to others. I will sometimes hear people say they lack experience to be a good manager, but I would question that by saying, what does experience really give your direct reports? People want a manager that can help them work through problems and collaborate well with them, and very often that isn’t just using that person’s experience to figure out the solution. There are times when experience is helpful, but I would push back and say although you might not have that specific work experience, we all have valuable experiences that can be just as beneficial for your direct reports.

2. Don’t let the power get to your head

I’ve seen new managers get put into positions of power and ultimately think they need to change to be a different employee. There is a reason you were promoted into this new position, and that means you should continue to treat people how you have been treating them. Just because you are now managing people does not mean that you are above them. In fact, it means that you should focus more on helping those people underneath you and taking blame for mistakes but giving credit for success as all good leaders do.

3. Value the whole person/people

People want to feel like they can bring their whole selves to work, and value sharing stories about what makes them who they are. Provide outlets for your direct reports to talk about what excites them outside of work, what they love to do, and what their values are. The more you can treat your direct report like a full person and not just someone who is working below you, the better that relationship will be.

4. Treat people the way you want to be treated

This one may be simple and obvious, but the golden rule is so incredibly important in organizations. As we become a manager and our time is possibly stretched thinner, always think about how you are bringing yourself to work every day. What do you want your reputation to be and how are your everyday actions showing that? If you know that you get frustrated by angry/assertive emails, make sure you are including niceties in your emails. Before sending that email showing your frustration, think about how you would feel receiving that same email.

3 ways to encourage people to FAIL hard

I love the Michael Jordan commercial where he says, ““I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” This goes against the grain of how most people in our society view failure, but it recognizes how much failure can help us. In my journey to find and learn from the highest performers, there is a common theme of failure that each performer has experienced. In order to be the best in whatever our performance is, or as a coach in order to help our players/clients get to their highest potential, failure is inevitable. I heard this from a mentor of mine who said that FAIL stands for “First attempt in learning,” that has opened my eyes to how we should view failure.

In order to best deal with failure we must go to Carol Dweck’s growth mindset work and how much our mindset affects situations. Dweck’s research has shown that what makes someone give up in the face of adversity versus strive to overcome it, is our mindset and our thoughts. If you believe that you are born with your talents or they are fixed, then you will try to avoid failure because it is proof of your limits. People with a fixed mindset like doing things they’ve done before because it reinforces their competence. On the other hand, if you believe talent grows with persistence and effort then you are able to see failure as an opportunity to improve. Having a growth mindset gives you the power to use those failures to improve on whatever you are doing, and with a fixed mindset then you don’t take those risks.

With all that being said, I wanted to share three ways as a coach that we can encourage our players to FAIL hard!

  1. Share the benefits of failing

There are countless stories of professional athletes who didn’t get what they wanted at first, but instead had to go through numerous failures to get there. As a coach, how can we celebrate those players that went through a failure but have used their growth mindset to overcome it to get on the path to where they want to go. People learn from stories, and it’s our job to help our players hear those stories of individuals that pushed on past “failures.” This can be incredibly important for your player that is going through an injury this year but will be a big part of your organization moving forward. After a difficult game, or difficult practice, how are you helping your players to understand it’s normal and they can use it as fuel to get better?

2. Create a culture that makes it okay to fail

A lot of the times our players are so afraid of failing because of the culture that we have built as a coach. It’s our job to make it normal to fail and share the benefits of failing. If our players are afraid to fail, it’s our job as the leader to create an open forum for discussion about why they are feeling that way. What about our leadership or about the team environment is making it so the player feels that they can’t fail? As a coach you need to have the self-awareness to recognize when your players are afraid of failure and ask the questions to figure out why. The performance of your players will improve when you address this question and create an open forum for talking openly about fearing failure.  

3. Recognize when there is a fixed mindset

How often are your players putting limits on themselves? You need to recognize when they are doing so and help them understand when they are operating with a fixed mindset. It is your job as the coach and leader to create a culture that recognizes when people are holding themselves back so the entire team can operate at their full potential. Help your players understand when they are operating with a fixed mindset and how they can talk back to that with a growth mindset. Notice for statements like “if I fail, I’ll be failure,” and help them shift their mindset to “most successful people have had failures along the way.” The fixed mindset player doesn’t take responsibility for their actions and easily deflects blame. Notice when your players are doing this and praise and reward those players who take responsibility and learn from their mistakes.

Three Things I’ve Learned from Being Vulnerable

I’m on a search to figure out how we become the best versions of ourselves, and through a lot of research I’ve found that vulnerability usually lives at the center. The dictionary definition of vulnerability is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” That’s an intense definition, but I think the important part to take away is that it’s a possibility of being attacked or harmed and doesn’t necessarily mean we will be harmed or attacked. It has not been easy for me to share a story of “failure,” but I believe it’s helped me become who I am and helped me get on the path to where I want to go. Given this, I wanted to share three things I’ve learned from being vulnerable about my story and being willing to speak up about it.

  1. Everyone can relate

I have had so many people come up to me after I’ve shared my yips story and tell me about a certain failure they’ve experienced in their life. Everyone has something where they’ve failed at, and it’s a huge weight off our shoulders to share that with others. Nobody’s life is perfect, and we often think we’re the only ones experiencing certain things until we open up and share that with others. Whether that be something big or something small, it’s healthy for people to share about their experiences so they can teach others. When you share your vulnerabilities, you provide an open space for other to share theirs. It is often our biggest failures that lead us to our most important lessons that others can truly benefit from.

2. It helps form deeper relationships

So often in life, we live on the surface asking questions like “how was your day?” or “what do you have going on this weekend?” but we never get into how a person is actually doing or what’s important to them. Getting into vulnerabilities opens up new possibilities in relationships and conversations that you never thought were possible. People bring up events/stories and you can connect on a deeper level than you ever have before just by bringing up a failure.

3. We are often our own biggest critic

Our mind is our biggest competitor and we very often think the worst when we share things. Before sharing my story about the yips and dealing with depression like issues, I was worried people would judge me and it would make me uncomfortable to speak about it. It took lots of conversations with myself and with my coach to reframe how I viewed the situation in my mind before I was ready to share it. Now that I’ve shared it, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve realized my self-talk was holding me back.

The Youngest By 8+ Years In My Coaching Certificate Cohort

My classmates in the American University Leadership Coaching Certificate class called me Doogie Howser in my 360 review, and I was young enough that I didn’t understand the reference. This made for a pretty good joke when the title slide for my final presentation was a direct quote from a classmate, “Doogie Howser was a great doctor.”

I was the youngest one in my leadership coaching class by 8+ years which gave me an interesting perspective. Going into the class, I had an assumption I would be one of the younger ones given the stigma around leadership coaches being older, but I did not think there would be as few people in my age range. I got into this world after I was coached and able to work on things that I had not previously made the time or had the space to do so. I was amazed at how powerful an experience this could be and how I wanted to make this my career to do this for other people. Since taking the class, I’ve had numerous people in my age range pick my brain about my experiences in the class, so I figured I’d share what it’s like to be the “Doogie Howser” of a Leadership Coaching certificate class.

Below are the 6 major things I learned while going through the AU program.

  1. Good coaching has nothing to do with age

Unlike a consultant who will analyze situations and tell you what to do, a coach helps people look within themselves and draw their own conclusions. A great coach raises probing questions and the client comes to the conclusions on their own. A great consultant tells you what you need to do. You don’t need to be a certain age or have a certain amount of years under your belt to ask the right questions to help someone get the answer for themselves. A coach is an expert on the development of people in general and helps people move forward on a unique path for themselves. In the purest form of coaching, it is often tough for people with a lot of experience (or former consultants) to resist the urge to tell their client what to do, but instead let you get the answer for yourself. This was where I excelled in the class, never telling my classmates with more experience what to do but rather letting them uncover the answers through the powerful questions I was taught to ask.

2. We are often our own biggest critic

I spent my first few weeks in the cohort constantly worrying about how other people in the class would view me as a young coach. Would they think I have no experience, do they think I can’t do this because I’m young, are they judging me for spending my money on this class as someone that is young? It took a lot of open and honest conversations with others in the class to understand I was my own biggest critic. Most people in the class told me up front they liked that I was younger and brought unique experiences to the cohort. The few that were skeptical (and willing to share that with me) told me that after I was able to share my experience of why I got into coaching (more on that below), they understood why I was a 26 year old trying to get into the coaching world.

3. A parent’s relationship with their child is often their most important

A very high percentage of the coaching conversations I had with people in their 50’s and 60’s was related to their relationship with their child. Maybe it was because they saw my age and face as someone that was like their children, but this is what got my classmates deeply emotional and this is what they cared about. So many of the conversations were incredibly fruitful and helpful for the classmate to take a step back and review the behaviors they were portraying to their children. What became apparent to me is that we often go on auto-pilot with the people that are most important to our lives, but when you get asked the question, “what do you want to work on today?” those are the people we think of and want to improve our relationships with.

4. A good “why” turns skeptics into believers

There will always be people that are skeptical, and that is the case for some people that I have told I’m getting into this industry. In the cohort, we went through an incredibly moving experience where we shared a time when we were vulnerable or went through something very difficult to practice being with emotions in a non-judgmental way. I shared the story that I have shared in my about me section about going through a difficult identity transition way before I was “ready.” Besides being an incredibly valuable experience and something I will always remember, I had several members of the class tell me they now understood why I was in this industry and how my “why,” should get rid of any pre-conceived notions others may have about me being a young coach.

5. Being different causes you to think about how to differentiate

While my goal in this industry overall is to make an impact in people’s lives and help them to live a happier and more fulfilled life, I have spent time thinking about how I can provide value for an “older” executive. I can of course provide an open space and ask them questions to help them unlock their potential, but I can also provide a perspective of what it’s like as a young leader in a company and what that type of person values. As a more tenured exec is looking for a person to bounce ideas off to understand how to motivate and engage millennials, I know I can be a huge value add. I am not someone with a ton of expertise in their industry or expertise as a CEO, but I do believe I can help them to better understand their future leaders who will be one day leading their company. As leaders think about the future of their organization, and how to succeed in the coming years, it’s so important to engage and motivate the future leaders in a meaningful way.

6. Not just Executives need coaching

Everyone can benefit from a coach. It doesn’t mean that you need a certain title or certain amount of people underneath you to value from an open space where you are asked the right questions and can learn about yourself. Everyone is going through something, and everyone can improve aspects of their life if they take the time to do so. As I share my story and interest about corporate coaching with my friends (who are not in the C-Suite of their organization) I have been amazed with how many people share how helpful coaching would be for their current situation. There is a need and desire for anyone to have a space to work on themselves and get pushed to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

3 Big Things

Embrace Tough Moments 
I believe we are best able to make the world better when we are vulnerable. It’s really hard for most people to share what’s difficult for them. But everyone is struggling with something. If you are willing to share your difficulties, you will grow. It may not feel natural, but sharing our struggles allows us to make wonderful human connections. I learned this the hard way when I suddenly “forgot” how to pitch. It took me a while to open up about this and to demonstrate my vulnerability, but the long-term benefits of doing so have been immense.

Bring the Energy That You Want to Be Known For 
We decide how we show up. It’s up to us every time we walk into a room or get on the phone. I believe that we must always control the “controllables.” We get to set the tone the minute we begin each interaction.

Relationships Are Everything 
I love meeting new people. You never know how you can impact someone else’s life or what doors might open. You can’t script it up ahead of time. It’s all about connecting with people. Whether it’s family, friends, or strangers who become friends, relationships are everything!

One For the Road. . . Don’t be afraid to fail. We are our own harshest critics. Anyone who ever achieved anything great has failed, likely more than once. Success is that much more enjoyable when you achieve it after overcoming failures.

Going Through the Yips

I had finally made it. I achieve my ~7 year goal of playing Division 1 baseball and now was my time to show I belonged. I had a successful fall season with the team, and now I was ready to showcase my ability in our Spring season when it counted. It was our fourth game of the year in Florida when I would first be called on to pitch in a real college baseball game.

Ball, ball, ball, wild pitch, ball, ball was how my career began. I had totally forgotten how to throw a baseball at the worst possible time. I had lost the ability to throw, and the yips were coming at me whether I was ready or not. I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear, the mental pain was excruciating. I remember sweating profusely, and not because of the warm Florida sun, but because I was so incredibly uncomfortable and disappointed in myself. I will always remember the feeling to this date of walking around that mound after walking the first batter, then the second, then the third batter and not knowing what was going on. Something that had been so routine for me for so long in my life, was now gone. This was my time to shine and I had lost the skill they brought me onto this team to do.

I would step onto the mound one other time my freshman season, and I walked 4 straight batters before being taken out of the game. My confidence was gone, and I forgot how to pitch that season. The toll that this took on me mentally was incredibly draining. I had come in with high hopes and high expectations as a pitcher for Lehigh, and now that was gone. I spent bullpen session after bullpen session trying to get things right, but just couldn’t do it. I was so in my head during each practice and I was lost. I am thankful for my teammates for trying to help me and being so understanding with what I was going through. I had a ton of help from many teammates who kept me from a state of complete depression and for that, I will always be thankful. I didn’t know what was going on with my throwing ability, and it was debilitating.

I went back home that summer to Maryland to work on my pitching in a space where I was comfortable, and I had a lot of success. I played in a local Maryland summer league and found out how to pitch again. I had a ton of success from a statistic standpoint, made the all-star game, and was ready to showcase that ability at Lehigh for my Sophomore year.

I had trained and worked my tail off that summer to be able to help the team the coming season. I got onto that mound Sophomore year, and once again, lost the ability to throw and the yips came roaring back. I threw 3 separate times that Fall, and walked the world each time. It was after the third time on the mound that my college pitching career ended, and I was going to have to become a position player or I wouldn’t be on the team anymore.

I had worked pretty hard as a hitter/fielder throughout my career and made the switch to a 1B/OF for the next year and a half on the baseball team, but it wasn’t the same. I still had issues throwing the baseball, and my confidence was gone after those opportunities on the mound. My biggest baseball regret to this day is that I didn’t take the time to work on my mental game, or really, just talk to someone about this situation. I didn’t know there were resources out there to help people with this, and I thought I was completely alone.

I write this blog post to basically just say, if you’re going through the yips or have lost all confidence playing your sport, you’re not alone. There are thousands of people out there going through this, and there are a lot of people certified to help you. I’m passionate about the yips and helping athletes develop confidence, and that’s what has come out of this situation for me. I’ve made it my mission and my passion to help people in similar situations, and get them through this.