Four Modes of Coaching Magic Part I: Observe Mode and Clarity Breaks

Apr 10, 2022

The most effective leaders are really good observers. Observing means actively looking for moments when someone has a chance to think! When you proactively look for opportunities to help and serve others, you add your own energy to their growth.

Observing involves engaging with reality and looking for the truth, both positive and negative. It involves noticing and accepting where the person is, what they are thinking and how they are behaving. It’s a very simple act that some leaders find difficult to do because we tend to rush to judgment. In this step, you simply observe the truth of the situation. Dan Sullivan says, “All progress starts with telling the truth.” Observing is just a way to witness reality, what the truth is in this moment. 

Leaders who regularly use Observe Mode to its fullest have found that they do this best when they have a clear mind themselves. They report taking time for self-care, stepping away from the day-to-day busyness and taking regular Clarity Breaks™. 

A Clarity Break is a tool taught in the EOS Toolbox™ that helps a leader gain clarity on the big issues and create a calm mind for herself. As with all EOS Tools, it is simple, real and gets results. To take a Clarity Break, first schedule 60-120 minutes with yourself on your calendar. Block it off and treat it as an important meeting with yourself. The most important person who needs clarity in the business is the boss. We are all following you, so you must be clear on where we are headed or on the issue at hand. During this time you’ve scheduled for yourself, go to a place where you won’t be distracted. Actively protect your attention by turning off all electronics, notifications and ringers! Then, simply sit with a blank legal pad and think. That’s it! There is no more prescription to this tool other than just giving yourself time to think. Think about what? You decide. Your brain only needs a calm, distraction-free space to let you know what’s important. 

If you still need to be sold on the power of a Clarity Break, consider this: do you ever have ideas in the middle of the night, while you are in the shower or while you are driving somewhere? Do you wake up with ideas or suddenly remember something just as you sit down to relax? Most busy leaders shout “YES!” when I ask this question. This happens because in all these scenarios (sleeping, showering, driving), your brain slows down to almost a hypnotic pace. (I know, we should stay totally alert while driving, but this is just the truth. Driving has become an automatic thing rather than an active mental state thing.) There is so much that your brain is trying to tell you. There are so many thoughts backed up and bottlenecked because of your constant activity that when the logical, active frontal cortex starts to slow down, the subconscious, deep-thinking part of your brain finally has a chance to surface, offering you clarity or showing you ideas you are not usually paying attention to. Leaders who engage in some kind of “slowing down time” will find that observing truth becomes easier. They are able to listen with their eyes, use their feelings as a barometer, and coach their people effectively. 

The opposite of observe is ignore. There are always going to be skeletons in the closet that are easier to ignore than to deal with. There are always issues that are easier to sweep under the rug than to work on and solve. Resist the urge to ignore!

In Observe Mode, one phrase I often use is, “Easy now, hard later. Hard now, easy later.” When we observe and subsequently take care of the hard issues now, life becomes easier in the long run. When we ignore the signs and take the easy way out now, life becomes hard in the long run and often the issue compounds on itself, becoming very complex and messy. 

Living in Observe Mode takes energy. In fact, it takes daily energy and constant vigilance in gathering observations that will help people become their best. This is also just reality. If we want something to grow and thrive, we must add energy to it on a consistent basis. I’ve heard people in positions of leadership ruminate or complain that they shouldn’t need to constantly motivate their people or that they shouldn’t need to remind people of the Vision or Core Values so often. This is simply arguing with reality. If adding energy to your people and their growth is something you don’t want to do or don’t enjoy doing, please don’t take positions of leadership.

Here’s the really great news! You may already have systems in place that help direct your observations. They may be right in front of you, just underutilized in your Coach Approach. If you run on EOS, the EOS Foundational Tools™ alone are a perfect place to start: 

The Accountability Chart holds the five roles that each seat is accountable for. Observe regularly if your people are owning these responsibilities.

Rocks are agreed-to, 90-day priorities. Everyone in the company has 1-3 Rocks every 90 days. Observe regularly if these Rocks are getting done and if they are on- or off-track during the 90-day period. 

Scorecards track the most important numbers on a weekly basis, allowing you to observe results of agreed-upon outcomes often. Observe if the numbers that they are responsible for on the Scorecard are regularly hit or missed. 

Meeting Pulse allows you to meet with your team at the right time, for the right duration and with the right agenda, giving everyone the chance to stay on the same page and be accountable to each other. Observe if your team members are engaged in issues-solving and accountable to last week’s to-dos.

The Vision/Traction Organizer™ is a two-page document that holds the answers to eight basic questions that form your Vision. It is the guide for decision-making and culture. Observe if your direct report is in alignment with this V/TO™ or is wavering in some way. 

Using these tools, or similar approaches, will help keep your observations focused on meaty issues and create productive conversations and collaborations in the future. 

Next time, I’ll give you some simple tools you can use to observe like a pro!

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