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5 Steps for Creative Problem Solving

by Coaching Out of the Box

The old adage, “think outside the box” is well known and somewhat overused, but the theory behind it is sound. Not every problem has a straight forward solution just like every road isn’t flat and straight. Sometimes it takes insight, creativity and sheer determination to get the solution necessary to solve a difficult problem.

Here are some steps to help with creative problem solving:

  1. Identify the problem or goal and clearly define the parameters. The purpose of this is to completely understand what the issues are; it isn’t always exactly as it seems and breaking it down can help challenge the original interpretation to best identify strategies moving forward.
  2. Review any steps already taken to deal with the issue and what the results were. Research solutions others might have also used and their outcomes. This may help with processing the right information to find a solution.
  3. Simplify with challenging questions to find solutions and then generate creative ideas for solving them. For instance, if the issue is making more money, a challenging question would be “How might I go about making more money?”
  4. Realistically evaluate these ideas. It may be worthwhile to take a break between steps 3 and 4 to let things set in. Additional ideas may come to mind in the meantime or focusing on other things in life could provide a necessary break to help with better concentration upon returning.
  5. Make an action plan and pursue it. Base the plan, or plans, on the ideas that work for the goal. Creative ideas may mean taking risks and this can sometimes dissolve some of the motivation, but a simple action plan can help alleviate this concern with straight forward steps that one can focus on. Follow these steps but be prepared to adapt them as situations change. Don’t be afraid to come back and re-write if the situation changes – nothing is set in stone.

Creative problem solving is a thought process and not necessarily just a series of “Aha!” moments. The ultimate goal is to move through the problem to the solution as efficiently as possible. The steps above will help to form processes for not only current situations but future ones as well. It may also lead to automatic creative solutions based on previous experiences using these steps. Never underestimate the abilities of the mind to find solutions to all of life’s problems, even if they are “outside the box”.

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7 Steps to Becoming a Better Listener

by Coaching Out of the Box

 

Mindful listening is an integral part of any coach, leader or even friend’s skill set. It creates the ability to establish relationships and build bonds with others. Holding a simple conversation may not seem like it requires a lot of skill, only participation, but to really get to know someone, it takes the ability to listen to them. The biggest mistake people make in dialogue is to focus on their own responses to what is being said, but unintentionally missing portions of what the other person is saying. This habit can be hard to break, but well worth practicing in order to improve listening skills. This also limits the ability to see things from another person’s perspective since your own perspective has become the focus of your thoughts in order to build up a response, especially if the conversation is quite involved. There are some habits which can be formed to assist with improving your ability to listen and therefore, make conversations more valuable.

  1. Learn from the other person by mindfully listening to what they are saying. Avoid creating responses while they are still talking. This may seem counterintuitive as it can lead to pauses in the conversation while you form a response, but this can be alleviated with simple saying “you make an interesting point, let me think about it for a second.” Most people will appreciate that you didn’t jump to your own conclusions right away.

  2. Repeat back what the other person has said to show you were listening. This is especially helpful to make sure what you heard it what they meant. This also allows you to absorb their information in order to better understand not only their point of view, but what your point of view might be as well.

  3. Make eye contact and show interest in the other person. Avoid staring at them and keep your stance casual, but appearing to be interested goes a long way in providing a level of comfort and trust to the other person. Add in nodding where applicable to show body language of interest and understanding.

  4. Avoid distractions. Ignore your phone, even turn off the ringer if the conversation looks to be a longer one. Find an area that is less travelled and therefore less likely to have interruptions from passersby.

  5. Don’t assume you know what they are thinking or what they meant when they said something vague. Ask for clarification so the conversation can continue to flow in a positive way.

  6. Be honest in your responses. If you don’t know something, say so.

  7. Watch the other person’s body language for clues to not only what they are saying, but their responses to what you are saying. This also goes for your own body language during the conversation. Make sure your body language is appropriate to the current conversation and show attentiveness.

Improved listening can help in both work and personal conversations and improve your connections. Practice these habits with each conversation to improve your skills and relationships.

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3 Steps to Improve Dialogue with Laser Speaking

by Coaching Out of the Box

A common thread among people is to want to be heard and understood. In both business and personal life, opinions, thoughts and ideas are communicated and often reiterated time and time again in an effort to ensure those words are received effectively. Unfortunately, the time and energy spent in recycling the same conversation is often wasted. This can be especially true in a business meeting where time is of the essence and people’s focus often wanders to their to-do lists and projects piling on their desks. Laser speak can be the answer to these issues and improve not only time management, but communication. This efficiency tool helps to keep conversations to the point and eliminates unnecessary additional information and reiteration. It focuses the attention of both the speaker and the listener by not allowing the point to be lost in an endless barrage of words and metaphors. The key to laser speech is to use as few words as possible to identify the point or to respond to another person’s comments. It helps to maximize the time spent in meetings or group communications, including written format and requires people to focus their thinking specifically on what is being said and the shortest response they need to make an impacting statement.

Implementing laser speaking is as simple as these three steps:

  1. Identify the reasons for laser speaking and demonstrate it personally. If members of the team understand the reasoning behind this approach, they are more likely to get on board with it.
  2. Help focus the discussion by encouraging only laser speech responses. Using positive dialogue, identify when someone is not quite grasping the technique or has forgotten to focus their point effectively.
  3. Ensure everyone has had an opportunity to speak within the time allotted. With this technique, additional persons who may otherwise have remained quiet may take the opportunity to speak up. This can help create a more rounded conversation overall and bring a better outcome to the discussion.

Once this technique has been implemented and understood, team meetings can take on a whole new level of productivity and the team dynamic can positively move forward with a renewed momentum.

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SMART Goal Planning for 2017 from Coaching Out of the Box®

by Coaching Out of the Box®

With 2017 upon us, it’s now time to sharpen those pencils (or get your typing fingers ready) and sit down for a good old goal planning session. But not just ANY goal planning session… a 'S-M-A-R-T' goal planning session...

Have you heard of SMART goals before? There are a few variations of the acronym floating around, but our favourite here at Coaching Out of the Box® is this one:

S - Specific

M - Measurable

A - Attainable

R - Realistic

T – Timely

In a nutshell, creating smart goals means digging deeper into each one to make sure you have a plan of attack for achieving them. Instead of saying for example ‘I will eat healthier this year’ (which is of course quite broad), you might say ‘I will achieve a healthier diet by incorporating 2 vegetable snacks to my daily routine’.

To break down creating a smart goal even further, here are some points for each letter in the SMART acronym:

S – Specific

*Who:      Who is involved?

*What:     What do I want to accomplish?

*Where:    Identify a location.

*When:     Establish a time frame.

*Which:    Identify requirements and constraints.

*Why:      Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

M - Measurable

To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as……

How much? How many?

How will I know when it is accomplished?

A – Attainable

“Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them”

R – Realistic

To make your goal realistic, make sure it’s one you’re both willing and able to work on!

 T – Timely

Create a timeframe and a deadline for your goal, and ensure it fits with what you’re trying to accomplish. A sense of urgency is fabulous for achieving goals – it keeps you on your toes!

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One of the most popular goals we see posted online or talked about as we enter a new year seems to be for individuals and companies or organizations to create stronger leaders. At Coaching Out of the Box®, we believe that EVERYONE should have coaching skills – just imagine what that could do for your company, business, or even personal life!

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We want to hear from you! What is your 2017 goal? Comment on this blog post or any of our social media channels so we can follow along with you! If you had to pick ONE goal, turn it into a smart goal and share it with us – we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

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Happy New Year and Happy Smart Goal Planning from Coaching Out of the Box®

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6 Tips for Entering 2017 Healthier Than Ever

by Coaching Out of the Box

Every December people are faced with the realization that the New Year is quickly approaching and they need to work on a list of resolutions for their inevitable change. Unfortunately, by the second week of January these resolutions are usually forgotten and life returns to the usual way it has always been. Why is it that we want to start out the year so strong but quickly lose our resolve? Perhaps it as something to do with arbitrary dates and deadlines, quitting cold turkey and forced submission to things we otherwise wouldn’t be doing. This year, perhaps the key is to start earlier and do small changes with no deadline in mind and no guilt or shame. Here are our 6 tips for starting the New Year off right:

 

  1. Focus on getting more sleep. This doesn’t have to be several extra hours per night, but it should be something measurable, even if it means going to bed an extra 30 minutes early every night. Most people are lacking in quantity and quality of sleep and it impacts their daily lives more than they are aware, since it is a chronic condition. Adding an extra few minutes to hours per night of quality sleep may make a huge difference, but not take much in the way of sacrifice.

  2. Add an extra fruit of vegetable to the menu per day. Trying to hit the daily recommended amount of every nutrient is difficult, especially with a hectic schedule, but buying 6 apples at a time and eating one a day while in the car or on the run, is a completely doable change. Try adding something green as well to get in those extra nutrients the body relies on, especially in dark, cold winter months with cold & flu season in full swing.

  3. Add in 30 minutes of any exercise every other day. This doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to the gym – try a walk to the grocery store instead of driving, or park at the far end of the parking lot and walk to and from the store. Even getting out of the office chair every hour for 5 minutes of walking around the office can make a difference in the level of exercise the body is getting. If all else fails, turn on some music at home and dance while dinner is cooking.

  4. Give time, money or extra items to those in need. Clutter can lead to an increase in stress levels, so a quick de-clutter of the home can show marked improvements in mood and outlook, plus donating the items feels good too. It also helps us to feel better when we help others, so make small changes to open up time in the weekly or monthly schedule to assist someone else, even if it is just a visit to chat with someone who is lonely. This small change can make a big difference to more than one person. 

  5. Turn off the technology, at least briefly. This one may be a bit tougher since a lot of people are actually addicted to their technology, but the brain needs time to wind down and this may help. The key is to actually press the power-off button, not just to put the ringer to silent or vibrate. It doesn’t have to be for an entire day at a time, but choosing to do this simple thing can show improvements over time, plus the electronics could use a break too.

  6. Use moderation in all things. Depriving oneself of their favourite foods, pastimes or vices can lead to all sorts of negative effects – it is an unfortunate part of being human. These treats can be motivating and uplifting, two things that we still need.

If we choose to view small changes, such as the above, in a positive way, they can make a huge impact on the future. Instead of focusing on missing out, being too busy or trying to do too much, too quickly, we can focus on the benefits of even the tiniest improvements. Every step forward is a step in the right direction, no matter how small.

So what about you? What changes are you planning on making in 2017? For many of the people connected to us it is using coaching and coaching skills to bring positive change to their lives and the lives of others! If you want to learn more about we do please connect with us!

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