Chris Coffey has been successfully working with clients in the Fortune 100 for more than 30 years, and he doesn’t get paid unless there is a positive change in behavior that’s sustainable, recognized, and acknowledged by others.
His journey to becoming a noted executive coach, keynote speaker, and trainer was certainly far from the norm, as he started with law school and an acting career.
In 1980, Chris was hired to work for Dr. Paul Hersey at the Center for Leadership Studies, where he delivered Situational Leadership seminars to Fortune 50 companies. His stage and movie experience proved extremely useful in teaching and presenting, and he had finally found his calling. While at the Center for Leadership, Chris met Frank Wagner and Marshall Goldsmith, and by 1984, he was fully engaged in consulting as a member of the prestigious Keilty, Goldsmith & Boone firm, where he delivered the Excellent Manager Program and worked with Marshall and Frank in pioneering the use of 360-degree feedback.
Through the ensuing years, his life’s work became about focusing on “Helping Successful People Get Even Better.”
With the release of his insightful new book, The New IQ, Chris and his co-author David Lam share Chris’ methodology, and some immediately useable techniques that can literally change your life and turn confrontational situations into truly productive outcomes. As David himself says in the student introduction to the book, “Chris’ methodology works. I thought it was amazing when I first started learning with Chris, and it just keeps getting better.”
I recently asked Chris to sit down with me to talk more about his new book, and to share the foundational elements of Innovative Questions so that you too can learn how to become even more successful and have more productive conversations. I feel very fortunate to have met Chris and to be able to share with you Part Two of our two-part conversation. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Susan Gilell-Stuy: What are the top 3 or 4 strategies that people can use to create the safe space necessary to really see another perspective and listen?
Chris Coffey: I’m a big believer in clarity. I say I’d rather have clarity than agreement. So with that little tidbit of information, if we get clarity on the desired result that we want, and we take the time up front, we can discuss and debate how to get there, as long as we’re clear on the desired result. Now in any situation there’s going to be different goals. How do we go about getting to different things and becoming cognizant of these things?
There are four different types of goals; you have topic goals, relationship goals, identity goals, and process goals. Each person has these consciously or unconsciously.
Topic Goals: What are the words actually saying? What are the words people are using?
Relationship Goals: What’s the relationship you have with this person, and what’s the relationship that you want to have? Is it what you want it to be?
Identity Goals: How does this person see you versus how do you want to be seen?
Process Goals: How are we going to go about resolving our different points of view? Is it going to be an autocratic approach, where the person with the power makes the decision? Is it going to be a democratic approach where the majority rules? Or are we going to attempt to come to consensus? What is consensus? How do you define consensus?
And I’ll often ask people how they define consensus, as it’s a word that’s used a lot out there today. And it’s interesting listening to most people define consensus as, “The majority of people agree.” And I say, “The majority: Is that 51% or 98%?”
SGS: You talk about gaining consensus in the book before acting. What does consensus mean then, how is it defined, and how does understanding that give people an advantage in accomplishing what they need to do?
CC: One of my expressions, again, is “Words have meanings.” You have to define the meaning of consensus. Come to an agreement with the people you work with: “Let’s define consensus.” You can look it up in the dictionary and extrapolate from that what it means to you in this particular situation. The way I define it is: You commit to the decision that is made, even if you argued against it in the decision-making process, and even if you still disagree with it. So consensus doesn’t mean the majority or agreement.
One of the things you have to come to peace with is that the person with the power in the room is the decision maker in corporate America, in companies. The owner, the President / CEO: they’re the ultimate decision makers. They may delegate that decision to others, but ultimately it’s their decision. It’s our job as coaches to say, “I think you’re going in the wrong direction. How can I influence
that decision?” In other words: What is it that I’m aware of that they’re not? And what is it that I need to do to influence the decision in the direction that I think it should go?
Now, at the end of the day, the question I ask is: “Do you feel you had a fair opportunity to influence it? Were you heard and understood?”
And if the answer to that is “Yes,” then the powers that be made a decision to go in the other direction.
The first thing I tell people is, “How would you rate your effectiveness at communicating your point of view? Did you have a fair opportunity to influence the decision? Were you listened to? Were you understood? Did you articulate your point of view in a way so they understood what you meant?”
And if the answer to that is “Yes,” then you have a choice. You can either buy into the decision that was made, even if you still disagreed with it, or you can leave. And those are choices we all have to come up with.
SGS: Defining consensus relative to the people in the room is definitely more meaningful than defining it as agreement or a 51% share. Usually in meetings, we hear people say, “Well this is the successful outcome that I’d like to have,” or, “These are the goals that we want to achieve.” Can you share the difference between an outcome, a goal, and the concept you share in the book of creating an ideal final result? Why do you feel that it is the approach to take in situations where you’re trying to define either for yourself, or for a group, what comes at the end?
CC: I think you hit on a couple little key things there. I like the words ideal final result. I think the words help people think a little differently, versus just goals or objectives, which I think tend to be vague. Now that doesn’t mean at the end you may be very clear on your objectives and the goal, and you’ve gotten to the ideal final result just using those words. I like ideal final result because it makes people think a little differently. How would we define success? What are measurements along the way to show us that we’re on that track? How will we know when we cross the goal line?
I’m a big believer in making people stop for a moment and think. I think we’ve come a long way in not wanting to make people uncomfortable. So if you ask a difficult question—that makes people think—they have to pause and think. And sometimes we get uncomfortable with that silence, and so we answer the question ourselves. Or we ask two or three questions at the same time, and the person will answer the question they want to answer. And so you’ve never drilled down.
I think the skill of having that underneath ideal final result: What are some other questions? How would we define success? What will it look like? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you do differently? What are measurements and milestones along the way, so we’ll know we’re on track? What are the resources we have? What are the resources we’re going to need? What would make this successful for you and your group?
I had a former client of mine say to me, “What do you do with someone who’s really articulate, and they’re very persuasive, and you know it’s always just about them. And they’re really able to put together a good argument, a good claim, and they back it all up, and it’s always just about them or their group How do you counter them? What’s a question I could ask?”
And I thought for a second, and I said, “Well, you could listen and say, Listening to what you said, it’s very persuasive in terms of you doing A, B, C, and D. And I really see how that benefits you and your organization really well. I commend you on that. What I’m not seeing as clearly is how does that benefit the organization, or our customer? What am I missing? I mean, that’s a great presentation for you, but somewhere I’m lost in how that benefits the customer, or the other part of the organization in the big picture.”
And now, instead of arguing with them, or telling them they’re wrong or self-centered, come back with a question. What am I missing? And see if they can answer the question. And be open, and listen.
When people say words, it leads to being able to ask a question. I had a senior VP of an insurance company, who was big, 6 foot 5—he was accused of being a bully and hollering and screaming and all that. So we get going and we go through the interviews, based on the stakeholders’ feedback he identifies that he has to collaborate better and treat people with respect. We build an action plan. And he doesn’t much like me—he doesn’t want to be doing this—but the President said, “Look, you’re creating a hostile work environment, and you have to learn how to work with people better. As valuable as you are, we just can’t continue to have this hostile work environment.”
So he called me on a Monday morning, and he said, “Chris, I was sitting in a meeting on Friday and the VP of Marketing was just flapping his gums. And I was sitting there thinking: he’s off the rails. But I could hear you on my shoulder saying, ‘Let him get all the air out. Don’t argue with him. What’s a question you could ask?’”
“And then I thought, you know, in the action plan, this VP of Marketing reads one of Chris’s bullets that says, ’I will distinguish between my opinion and facts, and I will ask others to do the same.’ The VP of Marketing gets all done talking, and I said, ’Now is that your opinion, or do you have some empirical data to back up your point of view?’ The room went silent. And he looked at me and he said, ’It’s my opinion.’ I replied, ’Well, that’s nice, but we’re going to need a little bit more.’ And I leaned back in my chair and I thought, My God is this going to be fun.’”
You know, you can talk about all this in a vacuum. But when someone calls you and tells you, “Here’s what I did differently”—and you used the word “uncomfortable.” I love when an executive says to me, “Well, that makes me uncomfortable,” and my response is, “I have no interest in your comfort level. That’s irrelevant to me. You’re a big boy or girl with a lot of money. And you told me that you wanted to get better. If you think that this is going to be comfortable for the next year, you know, you’re dreaming. Get another coach.”
Any time we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, there’s a certain amount of anxiety, and especially for successful people who believe what they’ve done has gotten them to where they are. It’s the willingness to say, “Look, I’m going try to hit this 4-iron 190 yards over water. And instead of putting down a 25-cent ball, I’m going to put down a $3.50 Pro-V1.” Well, you know, if somebody’s going to hit the ball over, I visualize this, and then if they put down a 10-cent golf ball, a driving range ball, you know they don’t have the confidence to do it. So confidence is key, and how do you take that confidence and not let it turn into arrogance?
SGS: In the book you talk about change being difficult even when we know that we have to change and fundamentally want to improve. You use Lao Tzu’s quote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” to illustrate that change must take place in small but perceivable steps so that our fear response isn’t triggered. How do you use this concept with the people you work with and how do you get them to incorporate it into their leadership style to change the behavior of the people they work with?
CC: I think you go right back to a lot of what we talked about, in the coaching process—the Stakeholder Centered Coaching process that Marshall Goldsmith has made famous, and Frank Wagner, Willy Lissen and I are the guys who really put together the workshops—it’s taking it down to that micro level of creating a daily sheet, where you start to say, “Do this.” Because the way we’re wired, we can only hold so much in that pre-frontal cortex part of our brain. You know, a lot of studies have been done: You can hold six or seven unrelated items at a time, just like cramming for a test.
So you can read a book and you can take some notes, but you have to get these down into the hard wire of your brain, so you can utilize them in the moment. I mean how many times have we come out of a meeting and said, “I wish I said this,” or, “I wish I said that,” or “I wish I hadn’t articulated this way.” We’re all familiar with the concept of regret: “I wish I had done this. A choice made. A choice not made.” So the daily sheet, to really answer your question, is part of the magic potion.
Marshall talks a lot about it in his new book, Triggers, and I talk about it and there are copies of them in The New IQ. It really is taking the action plan that you share with the stakeholders, and create a daily sheet and measure yourself. So for instance, when I start to work with somebody, we build an action plan, based on the stakeholder’s suggestions, and then it’s almost like an actor’s subtext. The author writes the words that you have to say as the actor, and what’s the subtext you’re playing? For example: Marlon Brando, in A Streetcar Named Desire, had the image of Stanley Kowalski, the character he played, as a caged tiger. He’d go to the Bronx zoo a couple times a week, and just sit there, and watch that caged tiger walk back and forth and back and forth, and that was the image he had in his head, going on stage at night as a caged tiger.
So it’s the same thing in a daily sheet. Let’s say in the morning you read it over. And then at night you say, “Did I ask innovative questions today? Did I assist someone’s readiness level today? Did I aim to create a win-win solution today? Did I come across as trying to help somebody else today? Did I create ground rules today?” So if you have to answer those questions—“Did I do this today?”—every day, you’re a successful person. It takes 2 or 3 weeks until you have those placed into your hard wiring, and you go into meetings looking for things. And if you know people know you’re going to ask that question—about it being an opinion or being backed up by empirical data—then they’ll also come more prepared to meetings. It’s the discipline to do this, and getting people to do it is the difficult part.
SGS: In the book you talk about assessing people’s readiness and a leader needing to do that as part of helping change occur. Can you share with the readers what readiness is, and how to assess and know that their team is ready to implement change?
CC: That goes right back to my work with Situational Leadership. If I go back to 1980, the word was “maturity,” and maturity was a component of ability and willingness. And then Paul Hersey changed the word maturity to ”readiness.” Kenny Blanchard changed it to the word ”development.” So readiness as a concept, in Situational Leadership, is – the person’s readiness on a specific task you’re asking them to do.
Let’s say you need to have a marketing proposal written. And you’re going to have somebody else do that. You have to ask yourself: Do they have the ability to do that, and how do I know that? Do they have the task-specific experience? Do they have the task-specific training? Are they clear in the priority of the specific task at this point in time? And willingness. What are the components of willingness? Does the person have the task-specific confidence to do this? Do they have the desire to do it? Did they have an incentive to do?
So those are the components of readiness—right out of Situational Leadership. And based upon your answers to those, if they don’t have the ability to write this proposal, then how am I going to coach them to do it? How am I going to help them be able to do it? Because so often leadership training says, “You have to delegate, delegate, delegate.” Well, if you delegate to somebody who doesn’t know how to do it, you’re going get a bad decision quickly.
The whole idea of Situational Leadership is how you contrast for styles. What can I delegate to you? And one of the great questions around that is, when you work with somebody, let’s say, “We need to build this porch on the house. Have you done it before? How successful were you? What do you think a budget would be?” Getting answers to these questions center around readiness. On my website I think there’s an article on Situational Leadership that lays all those out. So that’s the concept of readiness as seen through Situational Leadership.
SGS: We talked about your approach with clients, your strategies, tips and methods for bringing about change. We’ve talked about how your book gives people a practical way to begin to use them in their lives. What advice would you give someone as they begin to implement those strategies and start to do some of the practices in the book? How can they tell they’re being successful?
CC: Great question. I think in terms of the Stakeholder Centered Coaching process—what are the most difficult things to get a successful leader to do? And the daily sheet is certainly one of them. And again, not completing it is not an option I give somebody when they start working with me. So let me just talk about that for a second.
Once that daily sheet is created—and there are six or eight items on there—like “Did I defer to somebody’s point of view,” “Did I differentiate between my opinion and fact?” Things like that, depending again on the goal you pick. They have to fill that out every day. And then they email it to me at the end of the week. It’s just a little spreadsheet. Every day. And literally it only takes… less than a minute?
So no one can give me the excuse they don’t have time to do it. And if they do, the only thing I can extrapolate from that is it wasn’t important enough for them to spend a minute in a day to do. I love to say to an executive, “The quality of your excuses is exquisite.” They’ll come up with blaming this or that. And I’ll say at the end, “Anyone else you want to blame?” And they’ll say, “No, I think I covered everybody.” And I said, “What part of this problem do you own?” And they’ll say, “No one’s asked me that question before.” And I say, “Well, I just did. You told me all the others that impacted why this didn’t happen. What part of this problem do you own?”
So much of what’s in the book, and what I do, and what I really wanted to get into the book, is that these are all learnable skills. When people say, “How do you get going?” I say, “Memorize 10 questions,” and in the back of the book there are probably 10 pages of questions. Read through them, and highlight some. Like opinion versus fact: On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you put yourself? No matter what number somebody gives, “I’m committed on about a 7 level,” you say, “OK, well what would it take to get it to an 8 or an 8 and a half?” There’s a question. You’re trying to drive them to think.
Now, the next one after the daily sheet: There’s a monthly check-in where you have to check in with your stakeholders. This is another magic move. Again, it’s a little spreadsheet. And I teach people to say this: “You know that I’m working at fill-in-the-blank. Building consensus. In the last month or so, have you noticed a difference?” That’s a question. And the person you’re asking might say, “Well, quite frankly I haven’t.” And they’re going to be truthful—maybe you’re just starting this. You can say, “OK, fair enough, we haven’t been together that much. As you know, as one of my stakeholders, periodically I’m going to be asking you this. By the way, any suggestions for me moving forward on how to be more effective driving consensus?” You shut up and you listen—that
conversation takes 2 minutes or less.
Again, this is not about, “Let’s set a meeting and talk about me.” You could do this walking down the hall, or at the end of a phone call. And then monthly they have to send to me the comments that the stakeholders have given them. This is the way I force people into doing the things that they told me they wanted to do. These are just tactics to use to do it.
Now, you ask the question again: “You know that I’m working at delegating more effectively. In the last month or so, have you noticed a difference?” The person can say, “Yeah, I have.” Then the follow-up question: “Is there anything specific you can point to?” They may say, “I can’t think of anything right now.” And I’d say, “That’s alright, fair enough. Periodically I’m going to be asking you. By the way, any suggestions moving forward?” Getting an executive to do that is monumentally challenging. And they don’t have the option if they’re going work with me. I don’t get paid unless they improve, so there’s no option on this.
When I’m interviewing for an engagement, I lay it right out there, because what I don’t want is someone saying, “Well, I didn’t know I was going to have to do this.” And I love saying to them, “I want to make this as easy as possible.” Back to what Marshall and I say: You pick the right people who want to get better at things. You get somebody who thinks they’re being put upon, they don’t want to do this, it’s another HR deal—you can get them to do some things, but will the success be sustained? Probably not.
An analogy I use is, you put on the suit you want to wear to a wedding in a month, and it doesn’t fit. And you’ve gained 7 or 8 pounds, and you just can’t wear it, and you don’t want to go buy another one. And for the next 3 weeks, you lose 5 or 6 pounds to get into it, and then what happens after the wedding? You start putting the weight back on again. Unless you say, “You know what, I’m going to wear this suit every week, so I’m going to have to maintain this weight.”
But what we know is that 2/3s of people who lost significant weight put it all back on 2 years later. To quote Newton, “Every system in the universe looks to go back to a state of homeostasis—where it’s comfortable.” That’s our weight—we’re comfortable at a certain weight. Our behavior: we’re comfortable with it. So I love when somebody says, “Well, I’m uncomfortable doing it,” and as I said before, I say, “I have no interest in your comfort level. My job is to push and pull and get you to where you tell me you want to do—not to keep you comfortable. If you want to stay comfortable, get another coach.”
SGS: These concepts we’ve discussed and those in the book certainly transcend the corporate setting. How can people use the same strategies within their personal relationships or outside of the office? What would you say to those people who are not necessarily leaders as to why innovative questions and the Stakeholder Centered Coaching process can work for them in their personal life?
CC: You said, “People who are not necessarily leaders.” But leadership is merely trying to influence somebody to do something. So one of my questions always to people is, “Do you attempt to influence your boss?” And I’ve never had anybody say no. And so in that situation, you are attempting to lead. Leadership, in one word, is influence. Leadership potential is power. And we all have different power bases that we can use to influence somebody to do something.
If you have the position of power, you can say, “Look, I’m the President and do what I told you. I’m your father—do what I told you and don’t argue with me.” So we can use that power if we’re the powerful person in the room… for a while. Now you’ll get compliance, but will you get that person’s commitment long term? Probably not. Are there times when you use your position power to make a decision to move forward? Absolutely.
There’s a point at which you say, “OK, is there any information that I haven’t gotten? We need to make a decision. Time is the new currency of business.” One of my favorite expressions is, “Good enough decisions, aggressively executed, improve as you move. Speed is the new currency.”
So when we say “leadership,” doing this can be life changing—not just at work but also with the people you love, people that are important to you, to your kids. My kids are in their thirties and they call me for advice. And one of the things I’ll often say is, “Well, do you want my opinion on what I would do if I were you, or do you want to bounce your ideas off of me?” They know I’m not going to lecture. I can be decisive. I am decisive. And I can push them to be decisive. But they know I don’t just lecture them as their father. They’re adults now, and they have to make choices on their own. I help them think it through, which is also what I do with other people.
So leadership, regardless of where you are in the organization, how do you use it? How do you influence up? If you’re going to influence up, the first thing you have to say is, “What’s important to the person above me?” I get too often people trying to lead up, but go in and talk about, “Let me tell you what I need, let me tell you what I need,” versus really starting to think about the person that’s in the room who’s going to make the decision is the person above them. They better be making sure they’re positioning this in a way that makes sense to them.
The whole concept of the power is important. I talk a bit about the types of power bases that people have in the book: legitimate, reward, punishment, connections, information, expertise, and charisma.
I mean there are a half a dozen power bases that we talk about. So, know what your power bases are, and then how do you use them effectively? An analogy I often give is: You’re the CEO and your computer crashes, and up comes the IT guy from the bowels or the organization, and he says to the CEO, “Look, here’s what you need to do if you don’t want this problem again.” And the CEO sits there and says, “OK, OK.” I mean he’s not going to say, “I’m the boss here—let me tell you what I’m going to do.”
So you need to know your subject matter expertise, what you bring to it, and even more importantly, how you position it that way. I think it was Ronald Reagan who had a great quote. He said, “You can get anything done in Washington if you let other people take the credit.” That’s an art, to lead up, as well as leading across. So often we position it from our point of view, without having the perspective and empathy for the other person’s needs. And there are some other things we talk about in the book: How do you develop that empathy and that perspective taking? Which are key.
SGS: As our time together draws to a close I wanted to give you an opportunity to talk about what you wanted the reader to walk away with after reading the book? Is there an overriding message that you want people to take with them?
CC: If there’s an overriding message walking away, I want people to be able say, “I can influence situations better than I have in the past.” You know, often I’ll hear people say, “It takes two to have an effective conversation.” My response is, “Well, that’s great if you have two people who are willing and focused. But I disagree with that it takes two. One who is skilled at the art and skill of effective decision-making, dealing with conflict, and argumentation can do a lot to effect a more beneficial outcome by asking the right questions at the right time and leaving unsaid the wrong thing at a very tempting moment.
If someone comes in very emotional, how do you help to diffuse that and get the person refocused? By the statements you make. “I can see this has upset you. What were you hoping I could do?” The worst thing to say is, “Well, there’s nothing to be upset about.” If someone’s upset, they’re upset.
Again, we only do three things: think, feel, and behave. You cannot control your feelings. You see what happened in Paris over the weekend and you turn on the TV—what’s going through your head, and your feelings, are not controllable. Now your behavior is what we as adults need to be able to control. I may be turning inside tremendously. What do I need to do if I need to get in front of an audience? If you’re an actor and you have to go on Broadway, you have to go on. The audience doesn’t much care if you’ve had a tough day. It’s show time.
I had a person call me all upset one time—a Silicon Valley executive—and he’s angry, his boss is angry with him, and everything else. And he starts in, and then he’s all done, and he asks, “Any advice?” And I said, “Yeah, I have some advice for you, but let me put it in context. You work for a great company. You’re worth a bazillion dollars. You have a great family, a great life, and a couple of great kids. You make a terrific living. I suggest you hang up the phone, walk in the men’s room, look in the mirror, and say ‘God Bless America’ and stop whining. Your boss has upset you. What part of this problem do you own?” And he said, “Well, that’s insensitive isn’t it?” And I said, “You know, if you called for a shoulder to cry on, you called the wrong guy. So what is it that you’re going to do?”
Now, again, I think you have to let people express their feelings, and feel them. And that’s fine for 30 seconds or a minute. Thirty minutes of listening to someone whine over something is a little too much. My question is, “What are you going to do about it?” And another question is, “What were you hoping I could do to help?” And that’s so much a part of what the book is, and the essence of what my coaching is. Now it’s like any book—you can read it and you can understand it—but at the end of each chapter there are little “to-dos,” there’s the concept of the daily sheet, there are questions in the back: general questions, ideal final result questions, scale questions, Top 25 questions. Just look at them and highlight ones that appeal to you. If you did nothing else but go to the back of the book and read over all those questions, and really come up with ten questions—where you say, “I’m going learn these, I’m going take them from the pre-frontal cortex part of my brain, and I’m going get them into my hard wiring and just learn them”—you’ll be amazed at how good you can get.
Other suggestions—people say, “How else do you do this?”—I say, “You know what? Watch somebody interview somebody on television. And think about the questions, if you were in the interview’s seat, what are the questions you would ask? Watch any of these presidential debates. What questions didn’t get asked that if you were there you would’ve asked.”
Larry King could get anybody on his show because he asked softball questions and made everybody look good. It’s not a criticism. It’s just an observation. Another way to do it is to read anybody’s speech—read the President’s speech. In a speech it’s one way. You can make any claim you want in a speech. “We have Isis contained.” Well, that’s a claim. What evidence do you have to back that up? How are you connecting the dots to make that claim? And so you can practice getting good at this if you want.
So I would hope somebody coming out of the book highlights questions. That’s why you can get it electronically. Maybe you can underline and highlight and condense and do all of that. But when I read a book like this—I mean I have a pencil, I stop, I read, I make notes, I put post-its in it. Then I summarize it. And then I go back and I’ll condense it down to 4 or 5 pages and I’ll read that over, I’ll put it on a little disc, I’ll listen to it in the car, and it goes into my brain.
You know, I work on my short game in golf. I took the first 70 pages of David Pelz’s Short Game Bible, and condensed it down to about 3 of 4 pages, and it’s there. So I think there’s a big difference between understanding and being able to do. And that’s where self-discipline and self-control really come into play. If I were to analyze myself: I have much more self-discipline than self-control.
SGS: Putting things into practice, asking yourself key questions, and creating your own daily sheet and the other tips you shared are great practical ways people can begin to bring about the change they seek and begin influencing others more effectively. Thank you.
CC: It’s amazing how it can change your life. It truly can.
SGS: What’s next for Chris Coffey and how best can people find out about what you’re working on and planning for the future?
CC: I’ll just go back to my simple philosophy: “Learn as if you’re going to live forever. Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow, and be happy now.” Again, you can tie in The Ten Commandments, The Constitution, and a lot of stuff into that. All of that would need to be defined from my point of view. So for me, you know, people ask me when I’m going retire. And I say, “Retire and do what?” As much as I love golf and skiing, I can’t do it all the time. The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why. And I’ll go back to senior year of prep school and John McLaughlin said, “You’re going to be a teacher,” and I just dismissed it outright.
And that’s really what I am. So when people ask me what I do, very often—if I’m playing golf with strangers—I just say that I’m a teacher, and there’s an end to it versus “I’m a coach.” Then you have to describe everything, and I’m out here to play golf. Now if somebody asks me that on a plane and I think it might be business, I might say, “Well, I help successful people have a positive change in behavior that’s sustainable and recognizable by others, and if they get better at the end of the year, then I get paid.” That leads to, “What do you mean you get paid?” Then you talk more.
But for me, moving forward, I want to continue to add value. One thing I’m looking forward to is being a grandfather. I mean I’m not even close. My son and my daughter don’t have any children in the hopper that I’m aware of. I’m envious of Frank Wagner who’s got seven grandchildren, and Marshall’s daughter Kelly just had twins, so now he’s got two grandkids. And I’m still waiting, so I’m looking forward to that. I think that would certainly change my life, and my golf game would probably suffer a bit, and so be it. I’m a pretty happy, optimistic person. Life is good. So for me it’s more of the same, and the key thing is adding value.
SGS: Chris, we’ve come to the end of our time together and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing your experiences, knowledge and tips with all of us today. I’ve enjoyed our conversation.
CC: Any time. People call, and I’m more than happy to share what I know. I had one person, just as anecdotal, from a company. We were on the phone similar to the way we are now, and I was sharing all of this, and about twenty minutes into it she stopped and she said, “You know, I have to ask you a question. I’m an external coach. Why are you willing to share with me everything you do?” I said, to quote Buckminster Fuller, “I think sharing is having more.” Everything on my webpage is available to you. In fact, Buckminster Fuller, on his gravestone, has one thing, and it says: “Call me trimtab.” Do you know what a trimtab is?
SGS: I‘m not familiar with that term.
CC: A trimtab is a sailing term. So every big boat—every aircraft carrier or big yacht—has a rudder that you turn, but at the bottom of the rudder there’s another little tiny rudder that just starts it to go. And it’s called the trimtab. And so he just said, “Call me trimtab.” And I thought, “Wow. How profound.” So if I think of myself, what are little tipping point behaviors or tips that I give people that they call and thank me for? It’s just changed how I do things. So in lots of ways I think of myself as a trimtab, and people take it as they go.
So for the people reading this, I have a brand new website up. After I think 12 or 13 years, I finally had it redone. It’s ChristopherCoffey.com. There’s a page on there if anyone wants to contact me or ask for more input on different things I talked about. Also there are the first 25 or 30 pages of the book you can download and read and see if it’s something you’d like to read more of. And that’s how to reach me.
If you’d like to purchase Chris Coffey’s book, please click here.
In case you missed it, read Part One of my interview with Chris here, and be sure to keep your eye out for the next Leadership Compound Conversation!
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