The Five Coaching Conversations

Morgan MassieSeason 1Episode 6


In another episode of Simply Feedback, we talk with Morgan Massie, Consultant at Avion Consulting, as she shares what highly effective coaches do across different industries, whether it be in a sports or organizational context, and other highlights from The Five Coaching Conversations, A Research-Based Model for Maximizing People’s Performance and Potential, that she co-authored with her Avion colleagues, John Gates and Steve Williams. 


Morgan Massie

Morgan Massie

Morgan Massie is a Consultant with Avion Consulting. She provides organizations with talent strategies that are focused on elevating and retaining individuals, empowering and engaging teams, and partnering with clients in the design, development, and implementation of award-winning leadership development initiatives.

Morgan began her career in psychology before transitioning into the field of corporate organization & talent development where she has held multiple roles, including senior leadership positions. She has worked with a variety of industries such as technology services, defense agencies, financial services, non-profits, professional employer organizations, hospitality, higher education, manufacturing, and professional services.

Morgan has a Master’s in Instructional Systems Design from the University of Central Florida, a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of South Florida, and holds professional certifications in learning program facilitation, course design, human resources, lean/six sigma, leadership consulting, and coaching.


Troy Blaser (00:05):
Hello, welcome to today's episode of Simply Feedback, where we are delighted to speak with Morgan Massie, consultant with Avion Consulting. Morgan has over 15 years of experience providing leaders, individuals, and teams with award-winning and empowering development opportunities that re-energize, connect, and inspire as a credentialed coach consultant, speaker and facilitator. Morgan holds a Master's degree in instructional design, a specialization in positive psychology and resilience, and is a contributor to the Forbes Coaches Council. She most recently co-authored, "The Five Coaching Conversations, A Research-Based Model for Maximizing People's Performance and Potential", with her Avion colleagues, John Gates and Steve Williams. Morgan, it is fantastic to have you with us this afternoon. I'm excited for the chance to have a conversation with you for a little while.
Morgan Massie (00:59):
Thanks, Troy. I am so excited to be here. Thanks for the invite. And yeah, I can't wait to dive in.
Troy Blaser (01:05):
Is there a time in your life when you received some feedback that had a significant impact on you?
Morgan Massie (01:12):
So there's a bit of feedback that came from my dad. He's a retired federal judge, and I remember sitting in this courtroom when I was little and helping him fill the water glasses during his hearings. And when it was time for me to go to college, there was a bit, I'll say a lot of self-induced pressure for me to follow in his footsteps. And so I had to eventually break it to him that this path just wasn't for me. And I wanted to do something different and I was terrified. After I told him my thoughts and my concerns, he gave me a bit of feedback I'll never forget. He said even if you take the same path as your good old dad, you're never going to achieve the same success. And I thought, great dad, thanks for the vote of confidence.
Morgan Massie (01:54):
And I said what do you mean? What do you mean? And he said, you know, because you, Morgan, you were born with your own set of skills and strengths and you have to carve out your own path. You can never travel in someone else's. And then I realized at that point, I kind of sunk down in my chair. That's just what I've been doing. Unconsciously molding myself into someone else that I wasn't just to please someone. And that was a slap in the face. It was really harsh feedback for me. And it woke me up, an awakening of sorts throughout the rest of my college career. And then carry it with me today. And I love how now I can weave that into the work that I do and encourage the folks that I work with to really discover your own path to success. What worked for one leader is not gonna work for you. And here's why, and here's how, what you could do could be just as, or better than what has been done in the past and really to carve out what success means to you.
Troy Blaser (02:52):
I love that. Thank you for sharing that story. I think that's useful. How do you incorporate feedback into the work that you do and are there particular challenges around gathering and using that feedback?
Morgan Massie (03:03):
I don't think it matters what your title is or how tenure you are or where you work at our core, we're all human. And one of the challenges of being human is really having the courage to address the elephant in the room and provide someone with feedback, whether that's written feedback, whether it's through a 360 online assessment interview-based feedback, regardless, it takes courage to show up and provide someone with that clear as kind version of feedback. On the opposite side of the coin, another challenge of simply being a human is having the courage to be vulnerable and actually listen and hear and receive that feedback. All the more reason I think that we could all probably use a lesson or a brush up in how to both give and receive feedback in a effective way. And I think two way dialogue during feedback is key.
Morgan Massie (03:51):
There's an old saying that you give feedback, you dump and run, you dump it in someone's lap, and then you run off and don't provide an opportunity for the person that you're delivering that feedback to have their say in it. And for feedback givers and receivers alike. My colleagues at Avion and I've coined the acronym CARE. I like to say take CARE and providing feedback really. And that stands for Context, Action, Results and Exploration, and the exploration piece really allows folks to enter into that two way dialogue.
Troy Blaser (04:30):
That's cool. I like that. That's a useful way to remember in your bio. It says you have a specialization in positive psychology and resilience. Can you tell me a little bit about what that means?
Morgan Massie (04:44):
Yeah. I think it's so relevant right now. And resilience is a term that we're hearing all over the place. We have to be resilient through this crisis or this pandemic, and really figure out how we're going to re-enter this new normal. But before I took the certification in positive psychology and resilience, I thought that resilience just meant bouncing back. That's what you hear all the time. Resilience is the rubber ball and you bounce back to where you were before and it's not, resilience is more about evolving forth. You take what you've learned, where you've been. And again, going back to my story and the feedback that I received as a child, it's carving out that new path to success that's going to enable you to evolve into the future. And resilience are the best practices that you glean and your mentality. Do you have a growth or a fixed mindset around change and how you're adapting to this?
Morgan Massie (05:34):
How are you going to carry yourself into the future to make sure that you stay in a positive mindset around your growth, your mindset, your overall resilience to whatever's affecting you and positive mindset doesn't mean you have to be happy go lucky, happy smile on your face all day long. It's just taking a more open mindset and really assessing the situation. What do I have control over? What don't I have control over and how can I take concerted action in areas that's going to be to my benefit so I can stay resilient over time?
Troy Blaser (06:09):
That's fantastic. I'm glad you mentioned growth mindset. That's what I was thinking of as you started talking about resilience, was that idea of not just bouncing back to where I was, but taking the circumstance and saying, what is my path forward? How can I use this to grow in a new direction rather than just getting back to where I was before?
Morgan Massie (06:30):
For sure. Yeah, I think, well, I think we're all being faced with this unexpected change right now. And going back to becoming and developing resilience, it's time for us to take stock of how this is all affecting us and how are we going to re-engage ourselves and our teams or organizations into this new normal. And for some of us that might mean getting creative with childcare from this point forward indefinitely. It might mean, what does that look like as we're going to re-enter the workplace or even re-enter the workforce for those of us that have lost our jobs through this whole period of time. For all of us it means looking back, taking stock and adjusting those expectations of what worked and what was successful then is not going to be what's going to be successful going forward.
Troy Blaser (07:15):
It's almost like there needs to be a concrete exercise where you say, let me take a few minutes and just even write some things down and make some notes of the way things were, what my new circumstance is and how I think my path forward looks like because of the stress that's happening to all of us as our workplaces change and evolve and the new normal as so many people are calling it now. Right?
Morgan Massie (07:39):
And I think feedback plays a key role in that too. Again, we're not in this alone and we can only become successful out of this if we're working together. So soliciting feedback from others on what are my strengths, what are areas that I could really step it up a little bit, so I can be successful and adapt to this new environment. So hearing that from others, your coworkers, your peers, your relatives, your spouses, whatever is just going to help you, to your point, kind of create that list of where do I go from here?
Troy Blaser (08:07):
Yeah. That's fantastic. That's encouraging. That gives me hope as we figure this out. So, Morgan, you've written a new book, "The Five Coaching Conversations", that came out just a couple of months ago. Can you tell us a little bit more about the book, the background behind it, what prompted it and some of the subject material that you cover?
Morgan Massie (08:28):
Absolutely. Yeah. This is the third book that Avion has authored. This one I co-authored with my colleagues, John Gates and Steve Williams. And there's been a lot of talk about coaching these days within organizations. And when you look at it, there's one specific dominant coaching process that revolves around taking an open-ended questioning approach when coaching others. That is relying on the person that's being coached to really dig deep to find the answers within them. And we thought, yeah, that's a very legitimate approach to coaching. But a question that came up for us that spark the research that we began and that ended up in the book was what if that process is one of several really effective ways to coach and more importantly, rather than leaning on how we would coach and how we do coach leaders, how do highly effective coaches across industries, across different contexts, actually, coach, anyway? What are they doing that enables them to be so effective when they coach?
Morgan Massie (09:33):
So we sought out by way of data analysis and interviewing actual coaches across different industries to find out the answer to this question. So we interviewed coaches like Bruce Bochy, the former manager of the San Francisco Giants, and Gary Ridge, the CEO of WD-40, and a number of additional, really strong organizational leaders. And what became apparent was that effective coaches do not lean on one particular type of coaching approach, but instead they modify their coaching approach based off of the context in which they're coaching. And it doesn't matter if you're coaching in a sports or organizational context, what was bubbling up were five distinct types of coaching conversations, with only one of those coaching conversations relying really heavily on that powerful open-ended questioning approach I mentioned earlier. So in our book, we outlined those five that we've called Explain, Encourage, Explore, Empower and Elevate.
Troy Blaser (10:38):
That's really cool. I know as I've worked with Avion, we've helped you implement the coaching conversations assessment. What is the role of the assessment in the broader context of the five coaching conversations?
Morgan Massie (10:51):
Yeah. We use the assessments in essence to help us build some of the research of the book itself, but the way that we use the assessment now is to help coaches or leaders across different industries assess their current coaching aptitude. So you'd go in and you take maybe 5-10 minutes, on the online assessment and you get a personal report out based off of your responses that showed your most and your least preferred coaching approaches based off of your responses to a number of different assessment items across our five coaching conversations. And from there, we really encourage folks to take a look at that, read up on the five coaching conversations, and we put some tips in there on the report itself to build a game plan of evening out that playing field of your personal coaching skills so that you can have a more developed approach to be able to access any of those five coaching conversations at any given point, depending on what type of coaching conversation will resonate the most with the person that you're coaching.
Troy Blaser (11:56):
That's fantastic. So the coaching conversations assessment is some feedback for the coach.
Morgan Massie (12:02):
Troy Blaser (12:02):
Who's the one giving feedback to the people that he or she is coaching
Morgan Massie (12:05):
That's right. We always have to be sharpening the saw even as leaders, as coaches, even if we've been doing this for a number of years, there's always opportunity to say, okay, what am I doing well? And how can I maximize those strengths, turn them in this spikes, but what can I stand to improve? And how am I really coming across to folks that I'm coaching and is it being effective or not? So we use the assessment so that everyone can have that personal access to the research we did for our book to be able to create a personal game plan for themselves.
Troy Blaser (12:38):
So if there are coaches listening to the podcast out there without necessarily giving away the ending of the book, is there some specific advice that you could give to potential coaches?
Morgan Massie (12:48):
Yeah, I guess the advice for coaches and leaders alike, or really anyone who's supporting others in a capacity is that we have to in support roles, we have to be outcomes based in our approach to coaching and supporting others. We have to get rid of this handicap, I guess, of being too overly process based. And I guess what do I mean by that? If a coaching truly is an interaction between a couple people with a purpose of maximizing that person's performance and development, then in order to do that, we as coaches and leaders, we have to take the focus off ourselves and we have to stop over relying on our own go to tactics and taking what I mentioned earlier, just relying on that dominant paradigm of coaching and opening up that toolbox and saying, what is that person that I'm coaching? What are they trying to achieve? Where are they relative to that success? What's in their way? How can I be of service to them and how can I modify my approach to coaching them in an effort to meet them where they're at? And what's the risk if I don't do that, you come across as a micromanager or insensitive or aloof.
Troy Blaser (14:05):
Yeah. So the coach or the leader, like you said, has to be focused on the outcome for that individual and be flexible enough to use the method or the approach that's going to provide the best outcome rather than relying on whatever my most preferred coaching style is, I can't just hit that one note all the time. I need to be flexible enough to change, to produce a better outcome for that individual.
Morgan Massie (14:28):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And there's things that you can cue into. And we talk about it in our book. So how do you know which coaching approach to use in any given situation, you know, look at some cues, verbal and nonverbal that the person you're coaching is giving off and those cues will give you a sense to what type of coaching approach might resonate most in that particular situation.
Troy Blaser (14:47):
That makes sense. I like that. And so in your experience as a coach, as a leader, as a consultant, is there a specific experience or a time when you've seen feedback cause a point of inflection in someone's career or in their life apart, we talked earlier about your father giving you some very useful feedback, but as you've practiced in your field, is there a time when you've seen that feedback be valid?
Morgan Massie (15:11):
Yes. At Avion, we have this term called the penetrating message that came from our first book, "How Leaders Improve", by my colleagues, John Gates, Sacha Lindekens, and Jeff Graddy. And essentially a penetrating message is a piece of feedback received in such a way that it makes a striking impact. It sheds light on a blindspot. It can bring up that raw emotion and it just increases self-awareness. That's what my dad's feedback was for me. It was definitely a penetrating message.
Troy Blaser (15:41):
Well, and certainly it could be for in your case, that was useful feedback, but it could be feedback that is given is very penetrating, but not helpful. Sometimes that feedback can be both good or bad.
Morgan Massie (15:55):
It could. I remember a time before I joined Avion when I had to deliver what I would find out would become a penetrating message to someone. And this was before I knew the term, right? I was a hiring manager. I was going through the process of interviewing candidates for a new role on my team, a bunch of qualified candidates. And it was so hard to narrow it down. Everyone was so qualified and the day came where I finally had to tell the folks that weren't selected the news. And I was met with an email a couple days later that said what could I have done better by one candidate in particular. And it really got to me. I placed myself in their shoes and I decided, yeah, I would want to know. So I'll spare you all the details, but just know again, they were strong, competent, experienced overall, but they definitely had a blindspot around their perceived professionalism in the workplace. I'll put it that way.
Morgan Massie (16:51):
The role they were hoping to step into was high visibility, they'd be working directly with leaders, stakeholders across the company and be presenting to employees at all levels. And this candidate while super sharp and experience was, I'll say, really enthusiastic and had a habit of using potentially inappropriate words, even during the interview to express their emotions loudly. And I'm all for expressing yourself, don't get me wrong. But demonstrating that you have a filter in mixed company, especially in front of senior leaders, or potentially your potential new manager is essential. And I mentioned that to the candidate using similar words, I wanted to just be clear and kind, and just put it out there. And somehow the word filter really hit home with this person and their energy immediately shifted. Like I ripped a band-aid off a fresh wound and I remember this. I've had dreams about it since like they tensed up. Troy Blaser (17:52): Was this a conversation like a phone call or was it an email exchange?
Morgan Massie (17:57):
Good point. This person was an internal candidate so I scheduled a meeting to deliver this feedback to them face to face because I wanted to give it to them straight. I didn't want them to hear this through someone else over the phone. They're down the hall, let's sit down together and have a conversation. Again, the two way dialogue here. And when I gave them the feedback, they blushed, they paused, they sunk down into their chair and they exhaled and then they apologized. And they said something to the effect of, hey, I didn't really realize this is so ingrained. I didn't even realize what I say is inappropriate until it's already out. And it's never my intention to do anyone any harm or disservice and no one's ever in the work context brought this up to me. And I think when they realized that their behavior was potentially holding them back from what could be the next step in their career, they took it to heart, you know, and they committed to becoming at least more self aware of how they could be perceived in mixed company.
Troy Blaser (19:02):
That's fascinating. As I listened to you tell that story, my mind went back to the name of the podcast, Simply Feedback. That was a case, you know, there wasn't a big assessment required or a 360 degree survey required. That was one simple question to you that provided simple, clear feedback in return that had an impact on that person, hopefully for the good, in a professional life to remove an obstacle that might've been holding them back. That's important. I think for us to keep in mind, just in our everyday interactions at work, that idea of giving some feedback, not letting those things that are potential obstacles, linger there for, you know, years and years, just because nobody ever said anything.
Morgan Massie (19:46):
Absolutely. Yeah. Feedback is timely. It's gotta be timely. And that in this case, this person solicit it and said hey give me some feedback. And I didn't want weeks or months to go by before delivering it to them because this person wants to make a move in their career. Why should I hold them back from that? I should sit down and deliver the feedback and let them figure out what they want to do with that, you know? So they can figure out what success means to them and move forward, right?
Troy Blaser (20:09):
Right. So we've got the Five Coaching Conversations, amazing book. Are there other projects that you're working on right now that you can share with us?
Morgan Massie (20:18):
Well, one thing's for sure things are definitely not slowing down for our team since the start of this pandemic. And I'm very grateful and blessed for that. We've recently turned our attention to providing new ways that we can support our clients remotely, including providing free resources, publishing articles, creating opportunities where we can provide training and virtual webinars using Zoom and to help leaders lead and manage through crisis, help their teams re-enter this new normal. We have a leadership playbook chock full of helpful tools and resources that we've gleaned from the Five Coaching Conversations for leaders on this very topic. If anyone in the audience would like a copy, they can reach out to me or any member of the Avion team or go to our website, send us an email. And we're happy to send that with our compliments. We're also in the process of finalizing our flagship coaching, a workshop based off of the Five Coaching Conversations book.
Morgan Massie (21:15):
And we're going to be launching a pilot for that, a workshop series in July. Registration for that webinar-based pilot, we'd like to offer a really deep discounted price for listeners of this podcast of $294 for six sessions for going through intimately with the authors ourselves for our pilot, for the workshop and give us some feedback on how has the workshop doing while you're learning the tools? The coaching conversations assessment is a piece of the workshop as well. It's included into the price. The workshop program itself has a market value of over double that. So for that discounted price price at under 300 bucks, you'd get it all, plus the coaching conversations assessment. It's a steal, really.
Troy Blaser (22:01):
Fantastic. Thank you for that explanation. That sounds like a fascinating webinar. And more importantly, thank you for offering that discount to our listeners. That sounds like a great opportunity for folks to become more familiar with the Five Coaching Conversations, the material, the tools that are available as they seek to become better coaches. Thank you.
Morgan Massie (22:22):
Absolutely. We're happy to do it, Troy.
Troy Blaser (22:24):
You mentioned the website is kind of the place if you want to know more, a place to go to find contact information, to be able to reach out to you and other members of the Avion team, is that right?
Morgan Massie (22:37):
That's right. Listeners can also follow us at Avion Consulting on LinkedIn and Facebook we're pretty active on there with our social posts. obviously our firm's webpage. We also have which is our book specific page where you can find more information about the assessment, if you're so interested. And for folks that might be interested in being a part of that virtual pilot for the Five Coaching Conversations workshop series, or if you want a copy of that free leadership playbook resource I mentioned you can shoot me an email or you can always contact us on our webpage and a member of our team will be happy to get back to you and get you registered, get you the resources that you want.
Troy Blaser (23:23):
Fantastic. Morgan, thank you so much for your time this afternoon. I've enjoyed the conversation. I've enjoyed just talking about feedback with you in general. Feedback is such an important part of all of our lives. So thank you again for your time. It's been a pleasure to have you on today.
Morgan Massie (23:38):
Absolutely. It's been a pleasure. Thanks again for inviting me, Troy and the whole LearningBridge team. Take care.