Spring 2005. Blue sky. Gorgeous day. That’s what is going on outside.

Inside, it’s a different story. Michael and I are co-facilitators. We’re sitting in front of a room full of grumpy Supervisors who’ve been voluntold to participate in the sessions.

I think I’m more anxious than they are. Michael is as cool as a cucumber, as usual.

We settle everyone down and it’s time to get started. Michael speaks first and says, “You’re not here because you’re broken.” The room is dead quiet. Michael lets the silence hang for an extra second while his words sink in. Then he repeats the line. “You’re not here because you’re broken.” Another pause, and he follows it up with, “You’re here because you’ve earned it.”

You could feel the whole room take a breath. Everybody relaxed, including me. He’d found a way to let some of that blue sky find its way in through the windows.

Time and time again, I’ve seen Michael work that same magic.

It’s inspiring to watch him in action. He lives his mission to leave every person and every place better than he found them. He sees possibility and greatness in others. His spirit is generous and empathetic. He has a natural sense for what people need and what is holding them back. His questions cut through the clutter.

There are plenty more lessons I could share from working with Michael. He and I were partners at The Right Mountain back in the early 2000s. We worked alongside the founder Jim Hayhurst Sr. and his son Jim Jr. (but that’s a whole other story!).

When you meet Michael, he’ll tell you himself, “The secret is always people, no matter what business you’re in,” and “We’re all coaches.” My practices, and maybe even my principles, wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for his insightful guidance and enduring friendship.

That’s Michael. He’s a Superhero and a Sensei, both to me and to those he coaches.

~ Moe

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Michael’s #SHIFTsauce Ingredients

  • Cultivate a mindset of gratitude and abundance
  • We are all coaches; we are all team members
  • Shift the room with powerful questions
  • Leave every place and person better than how you found them

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Michael Reddy talks to #SHIFTsauce

#SHIFTsauce:  Could you start off by telling us about the work you’re doing these days?

Most of the coaching I do now is in two streams. One is, I work with entrepreneurs who own their own businesses. I come in as an advisor to them, and coach them and their senior teams. The other is with a company in Toronto called The Strategic Coach. I’m one of 15 coaches that they have in the world. I coach successful entrepreneurs. They all have to be running their own business or businesses. I see them every 90 days, and they’ll be my clients for years and years.

#SS:  Is that who you have in mind when you say, “We’re all coaches.”

We all have something that we can give to someone else, and we all have something we can learn from someone. Let’s say that I’m leading a workshop for a group of entrepreneurs at The Strategic Coach. They have all the wisdom they need about their own business and their own environment. I’ll say, “Look, I’m only a coach for standing at the front of the room. We’re all coaches for each other. I’m just the guy standing in the front.”

#SS:  What are ideal qualities for the person who’s at the front of the room?

There are fundamental core values that I think you should have to be in front of a group of people. One is to have a sense of contribution. It’s about the participants, and how you can contribute to them.

It’s also important to be able to walk the talk. I have a client that comes in from Botswana. Some fly in from Dubai every quarter. They’ve got to look at me and think, “He has walked in my shoes. I can learn from him.” I’m not just some guy who’s got the binder. I’ve ran a number of businesses and land development companies. They know that I’m an entrepreneur. It’s a real connection.

Another thing is, you have to be able to dance with the room.

#SS:  Dance?

You don’t know what’s going to come up with a particular group on any day. You can’t blindly follow your timeline and agenda. You need to be able to deal with whatever shows up in the room – and dance with it.

#SS:  Any other qualities?

You need a sense of gratitude and an abundant mindset. If you come from a stance of scarcity, it leads you to a win-lose scenario: I’d better get mine, and if you don’t get yours, okay; I’ve got to look out for myself. When you come from a sense of abundance, there is more than is needed for everybody. It’s a mindset that lets everyone succeed.

#SS:  You have such a positive outlook. How does that extend into your coaching work?

To me, it’s all about people. I can go into any business, doesn’t matter if it’s real estate or it’s high tech or whatever; it’s about people. That’s where I play. That’s where Moe plays.

I like to focus on people’s greatness and not their weakness. If you work on someone’s weakness, you make a stronger weakness. They will never be great at it. When you focus on someone’s greatness, they have exponential improvement.

#SS:  Moe tells a story about co-facilitating a session with shop floor supervisors that points to your positivity and empathy. You told them, “You’re not here because you’re broken.”

Their perception was that their bosses thought they needed to get fixed. My intuition said, who wants to think that they’re broken? That’s not what this was about.

#SS:  So you’re really meeting your clients where they are, in their hearts and minds, at the moment.

We have to be compassionate about where they are and what they’re struggling with. People are trying to learn. Even if it’s exciting and upbeat, they’re still going to be taking on challenges. We all have baggage we carry around; we’re all trying to do the best that we can in whatever situations we’re in. We’ve all been blindsided by stuff; but you need to adjust your sails and keep going.

#SS:  What if the things people are facing truly seem insurmountable?

I’ll ask, “What other times in life have you faced what you thought were insurmountable problems, but you’re still here?” They’ll find something, and I’ll say, “Great, so this is another one of those. When you faced an insurmountable problem, and then you got through it, were you stronger and better off? Had you learned more at the end of that process?”

The answer is yes. Okay, good, so let’s do that again now. There are tools that we can use to make a concrete plan and action steps to move from historical thinking to resolving the issue, but I first have to change their mindset or they’ll never find a solution. If you’ve got the belief that this is insurmountable and will never get solved, you’ll be right.

Your ears always hear and your eyes always see what your mind is looking for. Someone may say, “Jane doesn’t like me. She’s always on my case.” I’ll ask, “What happened?” and they might say, “Jane said my report wasn’t very good.” They collapsed what happened with the meaning they put on it. The meaning they put on it was that she always rides them and doesn’t like them.

A farmer might walk out in the rain and say, “Yay! My crops are saved.” But someone else might put a different meaning on it: “Rain makes me depressed.” No, it makes you wet. You make yourself depressed.

#SS:  How do you help change their version of reality?

I like asking powerful questions. If you give someone an answer, they’re not responsible for figuring anything out. As soon as they get an answer, any other possibility is shut down. But a good question can shift the whole room.

For example, recently I had a senior partner in an accounting firm talking about how he’s having a hard time training and mentoring the junior accountants in the firm to become partners. I was listening to him and it didn’t sound like it was really a problem with the junior accounting people. The question I asked him was, “Is it accurate to say that the other senior partners in the firm don’t support how you’re working with the junior accountants?” He stopped dead and said, “You’re right. The issue is our partners, it’s not the people I’m trying to mentor.” He was looking at the wrong thing.

#SS:  Is there a strategy to shaping great questions?

Often the powerful question is when you deal with the cause, not the symptom. Normally people give you symptoms. I don’t have enough cash flow; I made a bad hire; whatever. What’s the underlining cause? You ask about that. And then you listen for what is underneath the answer, or the unsaid thing within their own questions.

If someone asks me how I can be a successful entrepreneur and also spend a lot of time with my family, I might ask them, “Do you feel as if you’ve lost control of time – it controls you, and not the other way around?” Or “Do you believe that what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur is to work 60 or 70 hours a week, and therefore you don’t have time for your family? Is that your belief system? You may want to look whether that is actually true.”

#SS:  That’s in keeping with a metaphor you use: you call yourself a navigator and a pilot. Is that about guiding people forward?

Yes, and about getting them to start moving. It even doesn’t have to be in the right direction.

Say you’re out on the ocean. A lot of people just flop around their whole life with the sails down. You have to take action. If you don’t start, there’s nothing you can do. But once the sails are up, you can adjust how you’re going. Just commit and start.

Let me read you one of my favourite quotes, from W.H. Murray. “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

#SS:  I can’t help wondering if you shared this with Moe when he was setting out on his own. He calls you a great mentor as well as a friend.

Moe is a great guy and we have a special bond. We talked a lot when he was starting Shift Facilitation. Now I’ll do things like sit in on a workshop he’s leading about the Five Personas that he developed, and give him feedback. I’ve given him some material that I played around with, saying, “Here’s another way you can look at it.”

#SS:  Have you thought about which of the personas exemplify or reflect you?

I went through them and rated myself. I was pretty much even around all of them. Of course, I could be deceiving myself.

#SS:  That’s an interesting observation – that self-deception can play a role in evaluation. How do you stay clear on your own performance? Do you tend to seek feedback?

Always. When I sit with my team at the beginning of the day, I go through what I call my Success Criteria for Having a Great Day. And then at the end of the day, we pull out the list and say, “Okay, how did we do?”

#SS:  What criteria are on the list?

One is to have great conversations. It’s not about a lecture. Another is to ask powerful questions that shift the room. A third is to lighten things up, and have laughter. Sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously.

Another one is to tell engaging and relevant stories. Also, have intuitive listening. Hear the unsaid. That’s about looking at what’s underneath what they just said. Why did they ask that question? Why did they make that comment?

#SS:  Are there more?

Challenge them to push their own personal envelopes. Empower them to move to a new reality with velocity. The other thing is to be positive. Focus on people’s greatness. And simplify the complex.

One other key thing: it’s all about motivating them to move forward. It’s giving them the tools and resources that they need, and the confidence to go and use them.

#SS:  It’s a pretty long list.

It is, and I go through it with my team every time. I ask, “What could I have done better?” They might say, “This story you told was entertaining, but it wasn’t relevant to what we’re talking about.” If I just tell them an engaging, fun story, it’s about me, not about them. If I tell an engaging, relevant story, it’s about them.

#SS:  Do you have any advice on how to receive feedback like that? An attitude, or any insights into how to make the most use of it?

I’ll normally ask some questions, as opposed to brushing it off with, “Okay, thank you, good point.” I’ll always make notes. I’ll go back and look at those from time to time, and put that into my coaching.

I also consider what’s powerful for the team, particularly when they see me coach again and I’ve put in that change they recommended. They feel like they’re really part of the team. They go, “Wow, he made that change. He presented that a different way this time; he listened to us.”

Whenever I close a workshop at The Strategic Coach, I acknowledge the team at the back of the room, and all the other employees. Without everybody else and everything they do, this day would not have gone well. I’m just the guy at the front of the room. This is a team sport.

#SS:  What do you get from this work? What gives you the deepest satisfaction?

I call it my campsite mentality. One of the rules about camping is you always leave the campsite better than you found it. That’s what I do with every person and every place I see. How can I leave them better than I found them? When I’ve done that for a group of people, it’s been a good day.

#SS:  This feeds you? It energizes you?

After a day leading a room, I have more energy than when I start. It’s what I’m really good at and I like it. It lets me stay true to my core value of contribution or campsite mentality.

Let me leave you with a quote from George Bernard Shaw. It’s one of my favourites. “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

 

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Michael’s #SHIFTsauce Ingredients

  • Cultivate a mindset of gratitude and abundance
  • We are all coaches; we are all team members
  • Shift the room with powerful questions
  • Leave every place and person better than how you found them

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Curious to learn more about Michael and his work. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Moe Poirier is the Founding Partner of Shift Facilitation. For over 15 years, he has honed his craft as a facilitator and a designer of training. He is on a mission to have corporate trainers reinvent themselves as change agents and value creators in their organizations.