April 28, 2014 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa | Understanding Customers’ Needs

John asks:  Recently there seems to be a widening gap between product development and our understanding of customers’ needs. The products aren’t hitting home like they used to. Obviously, there are many changes we need to make – where do we start?

Sue Bethanis, CEO of Mariposa, responds:

Well, there are many facets to the this question, and believe me, you’re not the only one feeling it; so many people we talk with are zeroing in on this dilemma.  Here’s one idea that may hit home: START with customer empathy, and put on your anthropologist hat. GO see how your customers are using the products on their turf.  You know, Steve Jobs was famous for not conducting Focus Groups, but he still knew Apple’s customers REALLY well.  He was seen regularly hanging out at the Palo Alto Apple store, and checking out how customers were using Apple’s products.

June 13, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Communication Barrier Tips

Janelle asks:  I’m experiencing communication barriers with my direct reports.  On two projects, I’ve asked them to take the lead on things but they’ve dropped the ball.  What tips can you offer to help with my communication?

Tawny Lees, COO responds:

How frustrating!  When making requests, many communication barriers can occur. When you reflect on these requests, were they posed in a direct manner, i.e.: “Will you?”, or indirect, such as “Can you please…?”  Indirect requests are not straightforward enough to solicit an immediate yes/no response.  Also make sure any request is very specific – you’d be amazed at how often they aren’t! Include:

  • Who:  will do the work
  • What:  specific action and/or result needed
  • When:  time frame
  • Why:  context/purpose

Then, make sure to listen for a true response, which should indicate a yes, no, an alternative proposal or a commitment to do it at a later time.

One final tip:  direct requests might sound strange at first, so we recommend practicing them.  Successful use comes from mastering your tone of voice, which should be firm and clear to prevent communication barriers.

For more information, we suggest:

May 21, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: How to Coach Someone Who Doesn’t Want to be Coached

Saul asks: How do you coach an employee that doesn’t want to be coached, but is part of his PDP obligation to be coached for 4 months?  What power suggestions or questions would you use in this situation to motivate behavior or start thinking about the pressure to change?

Tawny Lees, COO of Mariposa responds:

Hi Saul,

Tough situation! As a coach, you know that openness to the coaching process is a pre-requisite to it being effective. So hopefully you can enroll this employee before committing to the engagement!

I suggest you start with open questions and deep listening to truly understand the resistance. “Tell me about you…tell me about what’s going around here…tell me about this PDP plan…”

Often the resistance is fear of the unknown, and an assumption that the coach is working for “others” who have an agenda. Establish rapport and explain the coaching process/relationship (including confidentiality) using positive language like “you and I would focus on what’s most important and helpful for you” or “clients use me as an objective sounding board as they work on their goals and tackle tough problems.” Address any specific objections, questions or worries. Your objective would be to help the employee see that you are there to help him/her be successful. Period.

If/when you see an opening, you could try specific questions about goals and begin motivating. Here are some ideas:

  • “What are your toughest challenges right now?” “What would it be like if you were able to handle those with more ease?”
  • “I find most people like to continually grow and stretch themselves. Tell me about anything at which you are currently trying to get better?” “What benefits would come from getting better at ____ ?”
  • “What could we work on that would have a big impact on your career/work life?”

Good luck! Let us know if we can help further. More on rapport and assessment questions can be found in our ITM coaching model.

April 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills / Strategy

Ask Mariposa: Top 4 Executive Coaching Focus Areas


Daniel asked: Can you share the most frequent areas that you help clients improve on with coaching?

Regan Bach, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:

Great question Daniel and you are not alone in wondering what actually occurs during a coaching engagement.  There is a great deal of customizing that occurs with each client’s needs, but here are the Top 4 most frequent areas of coaching focus:

1) Vision/Strategy/Execution

Whether it be for CEOs or new managers, setting a clear vision for yourself and your team is mission critical.  From there it’s all about articulating that vision to others, identifying an “actionable” strategy to execute on the vision, mitigating roadblocks, and tweaking the roadmap/trajectory given inputs over time.  A good coach helps leaders to a) get very clear on strengths and areas of opportunity to improve, b) articulate personal/team/company vision, and c) helps identify action steps to begin executing on a trajectory for success.

2) Going Slow to Go Fast

In today’s fast paced work environments, leaders jump from task to task, project to project, and initiative to initiative.  Rarely do they take time to slow down, unplug, assess the Big Picture, and reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, and what they want to do DIFFERENT moving forward.  Coaches act as a forcing function to help support leaders in unplugging, assessing themselves and their environments, and then identifying areas that need their attention.  What’s critical is helping today’s leaders not only identify where to show up, but also how to show up.

3) Influencing

This is an area where almost everyone can improve.  I have found that individuals, regardless of title, greatly underestimate (and thus under-utilize), their ability to influence others.  I spend a great deal of time working with clients to help identify effective and efficient ways to influence both vertically and horizontally throughout an organization.

4) Feedback, Communication and Relationship-Building

Organizations exist because humans create them.  Thus, many leaders continually struggle and are challenged by behavioral and/or human-centric issues.  At the core, business is all about communication and relationships.  Coaches help leaders create clear lines of communication, implement durable feedback loops into their work, and get clear on how and when they message things to others.

November 13, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Advice on Entering a New Leadership Position

Zack asked:

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Anne Loehr, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

I’d suggest using Jim Collins’ 80/20 rule, which says that the best leaders listen 80% of the time and speak 20% of the time. During that 20%, good leaders actually ask probing questions to dig deeper into the conversation.

Why is this an important skill for first-time leaders? Leaders initially were good at a technical skill. A good programmer will get promoted to lead an IT team; good sales people are asked to lead a sales team. Yet a leader’s job is very different than an individual contributor’s (IC) job. An IC’s job is to complete the task; a leader’s job is to empower their team to do their best thinking about the task, and find better ways to execute the task. To do this, leaders need to listen to their team and ask probing questions to help their employees think outside the box.

So this week, try listening more and talking less. You’ll learn a lot more about your team, and your team will be empowered to share ideas and find new solutions for the organization. That’s a win-win for all!

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

November 6, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: One Characteristic Every Leader Should Possess

Shannon asked:

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Sue Bethanis, CEO responded:

I hear this question a lot from friends, colleagues, clients; and my response is the same each time, and hasn’t changed over 20 years of being in the coaching industry. BE CLEAR! Clear communication is the single most important aspect of effective leadership. Clear in your requests, clear in your goals/vision, and clear in your expectations of others. With this clarity, followers/employees/colleagues have the perimeters they need to strategize and create products, services, and experiences.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/

September 11, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Over-Communicate to Manage Change

Steven asked:

We want to incorporate more creative thinking into our company’s processes, but are concerned that upsetting the way our company has worked for years could have adverse consequences – what are some ways to make this a smoother transition?

Eric Nitzberg, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

The short answer: over-communicate. When you are managing change, it’s critical to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on, and that as far as possible, they have a voice in it. This means engaging people in helping craft the new direction, and giving them information repeatedly and through multiple channels. Also, don’t underestimate the power of talking one-on-one with key stakeholders who will be critical to the success of the change. Let them know about the new direction, and get their best ideas and personal investment. They will become evangelists within the company.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here: http://blog.mariposaleadership.com/ask-mariposa/