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Coaching Doesn’t Always Lead To Growth

April 10, 2017 in

For nearly 20 years, Fortune magazine and their research and consulting firm, Great Place to Work have been studying the best companies to work for. Each year, they publish a list of the 100 best companies to work for highlighting the benefits certain companies offer such as longer paternity leave, longer vacation, large bonuses and so forth. An added benefit of the list is that while 100 companies are showcased for their unique approach towards their employees, other companies are able to learn from them and work to implement similar processes to help close the gap.

Within the 2017 issue, there are the same mentions of amazing perks, but also a shift towards a more caring organization. For example, “far more important than any lavish policy or fancy freebie, employees in the organization on this list say they trust their coworkers and managers.” Intuitively we all know how important trust is in the workplace, but how does trust impact the bottom line? “Workplaces that score high on metrics of trustworthiness also finish first in profitability, revenue growth, stock performance and other key business measures.”

This blog post will cover some topics that will help to build trust, but also, I recommend checking out other HigherEchelon articles, which when their collective content is implemented can be an effective manner to add trust and more growth. One such example is this blog on Emotional Intelligence.

A significant shift in Fortune’s focus of research is now putting a new emphasis “on the companies that are bringing out the best in everybody from the boiler room to the corner office.” Placing focus on bringing the best out of everyone enables Fortune to identify which organizations foster growth, inclusion, and effectiveness from its leadership, making them good places to work.

With many leaders, too often good intentions remain just intentions without effective outcomes being met. Working with leaders, it is often providing them tools to explain HOW to do the things that are often taken for granted. Focus! Relax! The employee may need to focus, or relax, but only when a leader can effectively coach them on how to make that a reality, then improvement can occur.


A good foundation regarding focus is an understanding of where our attention may be. First our attention is either focused internally (e.g., thoughts, emotions, physical sensations) or externally (e.g., weather, other people, signs, buildings, cars). Then our attention can either be focused on a lot of information (i.e. broad) or one or two bits of information (i.e. narrow). (see fig. 1 below).2

Concentration Styles

Image from Nideffer, Robert M., and Roger Sharpe. “ACT: Attention control training.” New York: Wideview (1978).

Being able to accurately identify where attention can be, provides the tool for identifying poor attention and shifting it as necessary. Below are examples from Figure 1 and in business:

  • External broad – Awareness of those around you such as the martial artist or in business it could be observing the operational environment or office setting.
  • External narrow- Focused on a specific object such as the tennis ball or seeing a specific action such as someone sealing boxes amongst the entire room.
  • Internal broad- Strategic in deciding what to do within a baseball game for an advantage, or considering growth targets for the company or ideas for solving an issue.
  • Internal narrow- Systematic in thinking about one topic such as preparing for board meeting.

While there are 4 areas of attention, when it comes to focus it simply means shifting attention to the correct area at the moment. Understanding that poor focus means the attention is in the incorrect area means when working with others, they can be instructed on the correct area and understand why they may have been having trouble.

A key area of business that many dread is a meeting. Many people lose interest and feel as though it drags on forever. This can be an opportunity to practice attentional shifting. If attention drifts towards weekend plans, or on the thought that the meeting is lasting forever, this represents an opportunity to shift attention back externally to try and pick up on the meeting topic. For those leading meetings, having awareness that attendees may struggle with their attention represents opportunities for participation or changes in topic to direct attention back on the relevant information.

Relax! Calm down!

Enthusiastically exclaiming someone should “relax!” is likely to induce some reaction other than one of relaxation and calm. This really is unfortunate because good intentions are met with a poor response. The difference between someone getting angrier and the ability to regulate nervous systems, conserve energy, and clarity of thinking, is changing from a command to relax to coaching a method of deliberate breathing.3

Here’s how: Breathe with your diaphragm by expanding your stomach on the inhale while keeping your chest and shoulders relaxed, then draw your belly in as you exhale. Start with inhaling and exhaling at 5-5 rate. Inhale for 5 seconds, then exhale for 5 seconds.

Elicit the emotion of gratitude if possible (think of something such as friends, family, etc. that you are grateful for)

While this may seem easy, it can take some time to adjust to. A suggestion for getting started is picking 3 times throughout the day to perform 3 deliberate breaths. Doing so helps to calm the mind, lower heart rate and blood pressure, increase attentional ability, increase decision making functions in the brain and negate effects of stress.3

Whether before a board meeting, intense negotiations or other events throughout the day, the effects of deliberate breathing can be impactful. As with all skills, continued purposeful practice will increase effectiveness.

It’s the Little Things that make a Big Difference

Working to fine tune the approach to coaching others leads to constant growth. Provided in this blog are ways to adjust the method in working with others to get them to a higher level of productivity. Instead of frustrations from hindered performance, growth can be experienced by all parties. When this is the case, the organization is on the right path towards helping everyone improve, which is something the best companies strive to make a reality.

For those looking for more information on Growth from Coaching, feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon.


  1. Fortune Magazine, 100 Best Companies to Work for 2017. March 15, 2017
  2. Nideffer, Robert M., and Roger Sharpe. “ACT: Attention control training.” New York: Wideview (1978).
  3. Benson, Herbert, and William Proctor. Relaxation revolution: The science and genetics of mind body healing. Simon and Schuster, 2010.