Hot buttons, sayings, themes and soapboxes: What are yours?

Had lunch with a fellow coach yesterday, and we were swapping stories on the twists and turns our different lesson plans can take whenever we engage with a client. We normally will go into an engagement with an intent to teach, however the more open-minded we can manage to be, the more we’ll learn and take away from the experience ourselves, especially when we uncover someone’s hot buttons. I am very fortunate in that my clients generally are already-successful people who want to be even better, and I thoroughly enjoy listening to them talk about a passion they have.

When a leader begins to speak about their personal philosophies, I try hard to shut up. I’ll very consciously switch from coaching on what I know, to questioning them about what they know, and why that knowledge has had such a profound impact on them. In particular, I want to discover why they are so passionate about leadership, management, and business, three subjects I doubt I will ever tire of. I get some of my very best “material” from my clients.

Inevitably, my final questions to them will usually be, Does your staff truly know how you feel about this? How often do you talk about it with them?” You see, more often than not, the knowledge and learning, sport and fun you give me in my coaching practice should be the stuff your organizational conversations are made of. We all have way more to teach, coach, and mentor others in than we even realize, and we have to learn to share it with an abundance mentality wherein sharing = blossoming = everyone in the same canoe.

As brilliant as my clients can be, these are some of the responses I’ll sometimes get to those final two questions:

I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record.

I’m tired of being the one who has to give out all the answers all the time.

I’m pretty sure they already know how I feel about this.

I guess the right opportunity never seems to present itself.

If the message is important enough, your people can never hear about it enough.

You must create conversational forums that revolve around your messages. You must create those “right” opportunities.

One great way is that ages-old, still-effective standby of thematic design, just as I do for our Ho‘ohana Community here on Talking Story with my monthly ho‘ohana themes. Look at how much we have talked about just since the beginning of the year:

January – Community

February – Reading

March – Reinvention

April – Sales

May – Leis

June – Clutter

July – Health

August – Celebration

September – Learning

October – Closure

If you’ve been in my canoe all along, you know that there’s tons of kaona (greater hidden meaning) behind the one word I’ve chosen for this list.

This year, this quarter, this month, this week — what are the themes of your learning initiatives, of your strategic objectives, of your branding campaigns or your break-through innovations? I know you have them – talk about them!

Do you have a value of the month program, where say, Kuleana is up to bat next (the value of responsibility), and you have the perfect opportunity to discuss your philosophies on responsibility and accountability? Does everyone truly know the connection when it comes to your feelings that effective delegation stems from assumed responsibility, or that there is no accountability without the complete granting of necessary authority? Can the people in your company actually finish your sentences for you, when you start to say something like, “Incomplete authority = excuses and loopholes all over the place ” partial authority = partial accountability.”

Next month, perhaps your value will be Ho‘omau (the value of persistence and perseverance) and you’ll have the opportunity to talk about creating a safe environment for mistakes, about the concept of “failing forward” and how that tired old phrase of “continuous improvement” really does have teeth in your company.

So I ask you again; hot buttons, sayings, themes and soapboxes. Passions, convictions and beliefs that drive the essence of your business philosophy – What are yours? Could your staff explain them to me if I asked them? When was the last time you all had roll-up-your-sleeves, passionate talk story about them?

When will you talk story about them again?


  1. says

    Ah yes, a difficult thing to do, being consistent with the message. All too often, I see managers diverted by the crisis de jour, and that is all you hear about for the next few weeks or at least until the next crisis. In the meantime, the program you laid out so nicely has been collecting dust over in the corner. Some may be still working on it, recognizing the crisis for what it is, just a momentary diversion, and that eventually this will be needed and you’ll be ready.
    Except the diversions continue… so disheartening…
    I wish I had the guts to offer one manager to be his “chief of staff for details”. To keep him on track instead of allowing the crisis to intervene. Some day!
    Thanks for the inspiration!