Transformational Conversations with Marcia Reynolds

Reading Time: 18 Minutes

In this episode, my guest is Dr. Marcia Reynolds and we discuss ways to have more conversations that result in breakthroughs.

Takeaways We Learned from Marcia…

Master the Art of Genuine Listening

Don’t just listen to people; really receive what they have to say because then they’ll want to tell you more. Being present and truly hearing someone is more powerful than it sounds.

Shift from Expert to Leader

Many leaders become leaders because they were experts. However, to truly lead, shift from being the expert who tells others what to do to becoming an inspiring figure who invites collaboration and understanding.

Connect Energetically

Engagement is an energetic connection. Make people feel valued and invite them into the conversation. This connection builds trust and sets the stage for meaningful conversations.

Reflective Inquiry Over Questions

Reflective inquiry is often more powerful than just asking questions. Reflect back the key essence of what someone is saying, leading to moments of insight and self-discovery.

Discover the Who, Not Just the What

Sustained change comes from understanding who you are in a given scenario. Help individuals explore their identity and shift from being to becoming, aligning with their desired outcomes.

Navigate Intuition and Trust

Lean into intuition to sense trust issues or processing styles. Patience and understanding are key. Create a safe space and be patient with individuals who take time to feel comfortable.

Strategic Interruption

Interrupt strategically with graceful honesty. Gain permission to interrupt, express why, and guide the conversation to maintain focus and clarity.

Create Lightbulb Moments

Stay present to notice moments of insight or aha moments. When someone pauses, gasps, or looks away, explore that moment. Those are the breakthroughs that lead to new awareness.

Set Clear Intentions

Set intentions for transformational conversations. Focus on helping individuals achieve what they truly want, not fixing them. Approach the conversation with the intention to support and facilitate growth.

Ensure Commitment and Plan for Obstacles

End conversations with a clear commitment to action. Ask when and how, ensuring a concrete plan. Also, inquire about potential obstacles and have a plan B in case things don’t go as expected.

About Dr. Marcia Reynolds

Dr. Marcia Reynolds, MCC, is passionate how to engage in powerful conversations that connect, influence, and activate change. From government agencies and global corporations, to coaching programs around the world, she presents fresh ways to move forward on the path of coaching mastery.

As a coaching pioneer, Marcia was the 5th global president of the ICF and inducted into their Circle of Distinction for her service to the global coaching community. Excerpts from her bestselling books have appeared in business magazines around the world. Marcia’s holds a doctorate in organizational psychology and two master’s degrees in adult learning and communications.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host and Executive Business Coach Allison Dunn. Our topic today is breakthrough coaching, how leaders can have transformational conversations. I welcome back Dr. Marcia Reynolds. She’s been I think on the show, this will be her third time she is passionate about having about how to engage in powerful conversations that connect, influence and activate change. From government agency to global corporations to coaching programs around the world. She represents fresh ways to move forward on the path of coaching mastery. Marcia, thank you so much for joining me in this new year. I’m so pleased to have you back.

Marcia: No, thank you. I guess I said before I really was looking forward to this.

Allison: Me too. As always, I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners in 2024?

Marcia: My number one leadership tip for 2024…

Don’t just listen to people really receive what they have to say because then they’ll want to tell you more.

Allison: I love that. Do you have any tips on how to do that?

Marcia: You know, we have such a habit of just being in our head and thinking about what people are saying. And as you’re thinking you’re not being present with them. And you’re and you’re not trusting that whatever is going to come out next is just going to be fine, no matter what it is.

And so being able to really receive what somebody’s giving you just to appreciate this is how they’re experiencing their moment.

I don’t have to tell them what to do. I don’t have to tell them what’s right or wrong. I don’t have to analyze their thoughts and be thinking about what I need, how I need to reply, I just need to be there and really listen and let them know that I hear what they’re saying. That is so much more powerful than It even sounds.

Allison: I would very much agree. I think, What am I, I’ve probably shared this maybe even in our past conversations, but I think my zone of genius is I really do listen, when someone’s speaking and to be like a strategic thinking partner with them, not against them, not around them, not above them or below them. But in that moment of sharing. And so I love that tip so much. Thank you.

Marcia: Yeah, you’re welcome.

Allison: So I know it sounds like we’re going to be talking about coaching. But I really just want to make sure that those who are listening, that we’re really looking at this, I’m going to use the word term coaching. And I think it’s more commonly used instead of a business setting. But these are for our leaders who are working with other people. And that is a form of coaching entirely. So how does using a coaching approach generate sustainable change?

Marcia: Well, just start off with it. You know, we always do engagement surveys, right? You know, do and what are the what are your people think of you and how will you engage them, but not even understanding what the word means?

That engaging is really much more of an energetic connection. And it is whatever it is I say to you that I feel engaged by you. Which means that I’m inviting you into this conversation.

You know, and so to start that off, that people feel like, Wow, you really want to talk to me, you really want to hear me, you really want to listen, I must be important enough for you. And that sense that that when I’m talking to you and I feel like you feel I’m important enough to listen to be with me that you’re there for me that I’m already going to start to build a trust.

And a desire to even talk through issues with you were a may have had a little bit of a wall before. So if I want you to if I want to help you change your mind, I can’t be doing it by telling you what to do. Right? You know, we know that. But it first has to start with that you want to talk to me. And I can’t change your mind if you don’t really want to engage with me in this conversation. So that’s really the first step to helping people to, like you say to be their strategic thinking partner. It’s that that connection that you set up front that then consistent in the conversation to the very end.

Allison: You have any guidance so I am genuinely coming to a conversation, I’m just going to use my cell, for example, which I try to do with everyone I connect with, if you’re not receiving something back, is that for leaders who aren’t getting that energy exchange back and forth? Is that a trust issue? Or is that a process issue of like how people think?

Marcia: Well, it’s probably either or, you know, I mean, because, I mean, when you look at those, those are two topics. On the one hand, if I don’t feel like I can, I mean, to be honest, because our brains always looking for, you know, what’s dangerous, what could hurt me? I can sense whether we’re connecting and you feel safe with me or not? If you’ve got some anxiety, if you’ve got some Oh, I don’t know what’s going to happen here. Some doubt, some fear. If I’m quiet enough, I can sense that. You know, and so that to start there, too, what is it going to take to help this person feel safe with me? That’s the first sense.

But on the other hand, you’re absolutely right, there are people that take either a little longer to feel comfortable, you know, they need to really feel be made to feel safe more than other people. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But that’s just the way it is, for whatever reason. And then there’s those people that are like, you know, analyzers and processors and have to think things through and we have to be a little patient with them. So there’s the thinking, the processing style to deal with, but also the, how open are they to be in this conversation?

Allison: So leaning into our intuition to recognize that maybe you’re sensing that the trust isn’t there, and or the comfort level is not yet there? And just recognizing,

Marcia: Yeah, if you talk to someone afterwards, they’ll say, Yeah, I could tell the person was kinda like, you’re not with me? Well, if you could tell, you know, then then why? Why did you just keep going? Right, you know, but, but what you said that intuition were really disconnected to that we do sense it’s going on, where we don’t pay attention, you know, because we’re thinking too fast. You know, so I always say thinking is the enemy of the coach, with thinking, you know, and a lot of leaders say, Well, how can I do that? While there’s a difference between can’t and won’t? Right? Right? Yeah, for sure.

And if you want to, you know, but that the thinking is, is what got us where we’re at, you know, it’s, I’m successful, because I was smart,

I’m successful, because I was strategic, because I could see things that other people couldn’t, which are all thought processes.

And so we rely on these things that created our success, not recognizing that those are the things that can create disconnection in a conversation is a different scenario. So it’s what I do, as opposed to what we do together.

Allison: I love that perspective. I think that one of the most powerful things we do as coaches is ask questions. And could you just share your thoughts on what the difference is between asking questions and using reflective inquiry?

Marcia: Yeah. Over the years, I’ve come to, to find that the reflection is even more powerful than the question. You know, hey, listen, over Thanksgiving, I had to listen to 32 of my coaching demonstrations over the past three years, to sort through for this online program that I’m doing. That was torture.

Allison: Bet it’s a lot of.

Marcia: Yeah. I mean, I’ve been coaching, what 28 years, but even from watching me coach from 2022 to 2023. I’m like, wow, look at the growth, look at the difference that I’ve made. And I find that two things, the better I am at just reflecting back the key essence, the things that you say to me to say it concisely, directly. So you’re telling me that this is what’s most important to you. You know, you’re telling me that your data is based on this what happened two years ago, you know, that you may get give me this long story, but I can break it down to that. That makes people stop Don’t think Did I say that? Oh, you’re right, in a way they can’t do for themselves.

So the question is just a follow up follow on, you know, like, so if that’s what happened two years ago, are you saying that that’s going to occur again? Now? You know, so they go together? They go together? Yeah. And so the two things, the reflection, but also really as quickly as I can to get into, who does this person think they are in this scenario? You know, and how does that relate to how other people want you to show up? Or who do you want to become? That’s what sustains change.

Allison: Let’s talk about that. Because I, I understand what you just said, but I just want to dive in a little bit deeper, so that our audience can maybe go like, Okay, what does she mean, when she says that, so that they can take the story, the language, the scenario, the discussion, and realize how to apply that?

Marcia:  Yeah, I can give you so many examples, I’ll give you a few. But, you know, to start off with, you know, the best thing is, when you talk to someone, just, you know, tell me about your challenge, that’s how you start a conversation, you don’t have to say anything else.

And let them tell you the story that’s in their head, it’s within their story, this you start to hear where maybe there’s some gaps in logic or you know, the basing it on past experiences, or, again, the conflict of who they are being compared to the expectations.

So I get a lot of leaders that come into being a leader, because they were an expert. Okay. And then they continue to be the expert and not the leader. simple scenario. You know, so when you show up and you interrupt people and tell them how things should be done, because you’re the expert, how do you think they judge you as a leader? Yeah, simple question like that. Or when I get new leaders, and they’re like, Well, you know, I don’t know why people will listen to me, I haven’t been on this team that long. I said, okay, so you’re telling me that even though you were asked to be on this team, because you have contributions you use, and you’re the new be in the room, that’s the who, you don’t think that it’s valued for you to speak up?

You know, so that reflection of who they’re telling me they are, you know, and they may not use those words, but I can, you know, you pinpoint it, in what they’re telling you that you identify that, or even for me, you know, in my last, in, in, especially my last two companies, you know, I was running training, global training departments in tech companies, and I was the only woman on the leadership team, you know, making big changes. And I’m not a big person, if you knew me and saw me, I’m very tiny, I had to have a big voice. And I was always like, telling people and being loud enough to be heard, and I was a warrior. You know, and, and my boss said to me, once, you know, I knew that no, you had to fight your way up. But you don’t get that you’ve made it. Is there a way that you could quit trying to push people to do what you want? And instead, maybe inspire them to see what you see? Which sparks an entirely different thing, Warriors don’t do that. Could I be the Inspire, and not the warrior? Of course I could. I like telling stories I like inspiring, but I’d forgotten because of what the you know, what I had tied my success to, was now no longer serving me. So the shift in who I was, is what sustains the change, not somebody to tell me, Oh, stop doing this, start doing this, because that’s not going to change me. But when I start shifting who I am, then my behavioral shift changes as well.

Allison: Right? Thank you, that actually, all solidified in gives a context to what to be listening for and how you can apply it I love it.

Marcia: Right and so I always tell coaches so first you have to hear the story and help them define who they are today. And that’s always based on the past always based on the past, there’s no present. And, and then when you get them to say what is it that you want instead, while I want people to respect me or see me as a leader? I want to be feel like I belong, you know, whatever that is. I need to be heard and they’re not listening to me right now.

So we paint the picture of what they want to create and then you ask the question again, so in In this picture of what you want to create, who are you?

You know, and then then you can look at the gap of who you are today to who you want to become. What are the steps that need to be taken for you to become that person in that scenario you want to create? So again, it’s not the doer, it’s the WHO that makes the difference.

Allison: I say it’s not the doer, it’s the being. Yeah. The becoming right of who you want to be. Yeah. We are at a point in at least the year where a lot of companies are having either performance goals for next year, or performance reviews from the past year and setting goals for this coming year. Yeah. What are three things that leaders must be mentally preparing for these transformational conversations to be effective?

Marcia: You know, first off, intention, you know, so what is your intention is your intention to make them perform differently, make and hear the words make them, you know, which means they’re bad, and I’m going to make them good. Okay, right there, you’re already setting up a disconnection in the conversation.

So the intention really needs to be looked at as what is it that they really want? Do they want to be a leader do they want to be seen as more competent? Do they want less stress?

You know, so we go in with the intention to help them to achieve what they really want, I’m here to help you achieve that. So you want to watch your intention, because your intention is going to set the energy.

You know, and, and again, that I am here for you. I am here for you. And then you go in there, and, you know, coaching requires so much patience. You know, you hear their story, hear their complaints, hear they’re blaming all that stuff, without interruption, you know, and making them wrong, making anyone wrong, you’ve cut off the conversation, you know, to but to hear that, and when they start repeating themselves, then you can interrupt and say, I think I understand what you’re saying, I think I got the gist. Can I share with you what I hear so we can see if we were in agreement? You know, so, so strategically interrupting means. I asked permission, I tell you why I’m interrupting, you know, and, and generally, they’ll say, Yeah, I mean, because they want to be kind of directed anyway, if they’re all over the place.

So to be careful that we don’t get frustrated, irritated, impatient, in these conversation, that it’s going to take a little time upfront that they can share whatever things are on their mind.

And then we can start sharing back what we’re hearing and trying to get to, what is it that you want to create, that’s not happening now? And that’s really the focus of the conversation. So the goals that you set in a performance conversation need to be based on what is it this person really wants to create not fix, but to create going forward? How are we going to get to that? And that also shows my intention is here for you, not to fix you, you know, because you’re bad or wrong. But I’m here just to help you discover what it is that that you might do to get what you really want as the outcome.

Allison: I just want summarize that so intention, T GE IQ, interrupting interruption.

Marcia: What was it? One of my colleagues said it’s kind of elegant, interrupting.

Allison: I call it sometimes as graceful honesty, as opposed to brutal honesty.

Marcia: Yeah. Right. I like that graceful honesty, strategic interruption. And then the third, the third thing that we need to do is, well, there was emotional regulation in their strategic but you know, but also, the third thing really is don’t lose respect for the human in front of you, no matter what it is, they’re going through, you know, that, that. You know, we all want to be seen, we want to be understood, but the main thing is we want to be valued. We want to feel like you think I’m smart. You know, and so I feel that, that they’re doing the best they can with what they have right now. And I respect that and they’re just on their journey and I’m here to help them on their journey.

Allison: One of my and I’m sure it’s probably the same for you one of my favorite things As a coach is to see those aha moments that people have and just realize that there’s like a light bulb and like there’s just a, like a growth or breakthrough. So how do you know what to reflect in a conversation that will make that difference in someone’s thinking?

Marcia: Well, they always let us know. So I mean, that that’s really the focus of my new book, because the subtitle is creating lightbulb moments in your conversations.

If you stay present, and you’re not jumping ahead in your mind, you’re going to notice the moment that they kind of gasp or pause, or they look away and think for a moment, something’s going on in their mind, something’s connecting differently, that means that they’re, you know, percolating a creative insight.

And that’s where we want to hear you don’t want to miss that moment. And they’ll always indicate it in some way. And, you know, and, and they may let them start talking again, but just to stop and say, you know, something just happened there. And you’re thinking, Could you share that with me? And then they go back, and they may not be able to articulate it completely. So you help them? You know, they might say, well, you know, I was thinking that maybe there was something in that that conversation that I missed. Okay, so can we go back to that conversation and see what occurred, that maybe we can find what you missed? You know, so get them to articulate that moment that pause that gasps that looking away? What’s going on? In your mind? Would you be willing to share that with me? And really try to sort that through? Because that’s going to change the entire conversation?

Allison: For sure. I love to articulate it when it happens, in my own mind out loud to people. And sometimes they don’t follow along with me. But I’m like, No, like I just a nuance, I just didn’t even see why I do what I love that so much.

Marcia: Well, you know, that’s what people don’t understand is, that’s the goal of coaching. The goal of coaching is the new awareness, not the problem solving. Yes. Yeah. And that’s thing, what is it that we can do to help them that have that moment where they are? Oh, right. Because then you’ve got what happened is you’ve got new connections in the brain that sees their situation differently. And that is that they’ll, they’ll find solutions to their problems.

Allison: What questions can you ask to ensure progress will be made? Go goal achievement?

Marcia: Yeah. Well, you know, we like to say, coaching is about reflecting and questions, but there’s a structure to it, if you don’t have a structure, it just goes all over the place. So we look at the container, the container, you know, at some point upfront, we really want to clarify what is it you want to create or change, that’s not happening now. And that becomes the string that holds the conversation together. At the end, we want to ensure that whatever step they’re now committed to take is going to help them to get to the thing that they said they wanted to create. But that has to be very clear to you don’t just when they say okay, I got it now, you can’t just end the conversation.

So what is it that you get? What will you now do when by when always ask the one question because they say, well, even if they say I need to think about it, okay, well, when will you do that? What does that look like? You still need to get a commitment to that. And I’ve added one more question. You know, we used to always say could anything get in your way? Is there any other support that you need? It if the, the action they say depends on someone else, like, Okay, I’m going to go have a conversation with my colleague or with that employee. Then the question is always, if it doesn’t turn out as if you expect or hope for what we then do?

Marcia: Yeah. Oh, because what happens is, okay, I’m going to go talk to my colleague, and you’re calling Jack, you know, just dis as you know, I don’t care what you say, now, you know, that this is over. What are you going to do? So most of the time, if, if you don’t think that through, you just think, you know, well, this is a waste. I’m not going to ever talk to this person again. Or I’m a failure. I can’t do this thing. You know, but if you set up that person as you want, because you’re putting it on somebody else you’re setting your own success.

What will you do next? allows you to move through, you kind of have a plan B, you know, it’s like, okay, well, if doesn’t happen, this is what I’ll do.

And I’ll tell you that they always come up with something, oh, well, then I’ll just do this. You know, and it’s so helpful to ask that question.

Allison: That’s a keeper. I’m going to add that to my toolbox. Thank you for that. Yeah. Congratulations on the newest book, I hope that your breakthroughs in your world are tremendous for this year. Do an asking today just because it’s the start of the new year, do you? Do you have a theme word for this year? That you’d be willing to share?

Marcia: Oh, you know, it’s funny. On a personal level. There was a blog that I read right before the new years where it talked about the difference between being grateful, we always say, Oh, be grateful, be grateful, and being satisfied. And I’m like, Oh, can I just be satisfied with this wonderful life that I have? You know, I’ve been grateful forever. But can I be satisfied? Can I just be satisfied with me of who I am? You know, even the word acceptance. If I say, Oh, I fully accept myself, then I’m saying I’m limited. I accept my all my limitations. No, I’m satisfied. I’m satisfied with it all. So you know, I’m really exploring, because we don’t tend to put that make that word powerful. But it can be. It can be. So it means being present. Just being here and being in this moment, this wonderful moment that I’m in.

Allison: Thank you for sharing that, too. Do you have any major things that you’re focusing on other than the rollout of the book for this coming year that you can share?

Marcia: Yeah, well, the book even I wasn’t going to write another book. You know, people are already getting the copies of their book. And I don’t even have mine, because they have to ship boxes. So yeah, it’s crazy. But I had initially agreed to do it. Because of the online programs I do with, you know, and we have a foundational breakthrough coaching program, but we’re going to do a deep dive Mastery program starting at the end of March, I’m in the middle of designing it right now. And it’s going to be so fun, you know, so it’s going to be limited, like a three week program for just 50 people at a time, a few times a year, and, and you have to have had some coach training. Or you can’t be you can’t just have you know, walk into the program. You can go through the initial program, if you haven’t had any coach training, we have that available to itself study, and then you can come on and into the Mastery program. So that’s the plan.

Allison: That is exciting, wonderful, and I couldn’t think of a better person to be designing that. So congratulations on that. Marcia, as always, I just deeply appreciate connecting and learning about what you’re doing. And again, congratulations on the newest book. Thank you. I hope that we get the opportunity in the future to have a fourth podcast together.

Marcia: Oh, always anytime. We always so enjoy your conversations. Thank you.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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