Uncovering Someone's Natural Abilities with Kelli Oberndorf

We are very excited to have Kelli Oberndorf back on the podcast and announce that she is the newest member of the SIAMO family!  Kelli has a background as an organizational coach, facilitator, and community builder.  

On today’s podcast we discuss the unfortunate misconception of what it means to be a coach and how coaching overall can benefit your organization.

Through the application of coaching as way to lead and work with our clients, our common goal as a Siamo team is to shift the concept of coaching from performance improvement programs to uncovering people's natural abilities and creating the elements for individuals and teams to thrive as their true selves. 

Being a coach is really not about the title or the certification, it's about who you are and how you relate to each other as humans. 

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human

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Website: https://www.wearesiamo.com/



Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human, where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives. 

Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves. 

Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni. 

Alex Cullimore: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.

Cristina Amigoni: Let’s dive in. 

“Authenticity means freedom.”

“Authenticity means going with your gut.”

“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”

“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”

“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”

“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”

“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”

Alex Cullimore: Welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. We are joined with a very special guest today. Kelli is back on the podcast. Welcome back, Kelli. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Thank you. 

Alex Cullimore: We have Kelly Oberndorf. And I understand, Kelly, you've recently taken a new job. Do you want to talk about that? 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yes, I certainly have. Yes, actually. Excitingly enough. I have taken the position to join the two of you in SIAMO. And I am so thrilled. 

Alex Cullimore: We are very excited to announce this. This is very exciting to have you on board, Kelli. We have our third now. Welcome to the team, Kelli. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Thank you so much. I feel grateful and honored. And I’m really excited about what's to come for us. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, super exciting. 

Alex Cullimore: Well, we feel the same way. We're so glad to you joined. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. 

Alex Cullimore: We thought you wanted to. 

Cristina Amigoni: I know. I know. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Well, and I’m glad you wanted me to. So, hey. Here we go. 

Cristina Amigoni: You know us and you're not going to work with us? No way.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yes. The answer is yes. 

Cristina Amigoni: It's flattering and scary at the same time. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Well, there's nothing like going into the unknown. But also having the perspective of building this relationship for the past year and coming to the realization of how well we work together and the collaboration that we have. The organic nature of how the relationship was built, and then the natural next step was kind of maybe memorializing it and officially coming on. 

Cristina Amigoni: Completely agree. I love that our WE is expanding. It's a bigger WE. 

Alex Cullimore: Yes. 

Cristina Amigoni: Many more things happening and going to happen. More and more building on each other's ideas. 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. We appreciate the vote of confidence in us. We will live up to that or work to live up to that. So, I’m very excited to have Kelli on. So, Kelli, you have a background as an organizational coach and facilitator. And that brings us to our topic we wanted to discuss today, a little bit more about coaching. And what it is? And what that means for everybody? And give some more standard definitions, so I think people can attach to what is becoming a growing phenomena in the workplace of bringing in coaching and talking about what is a coaching conversation. So, let's dive right into what is coaching. That's open for all of us. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yes. Well, I think coaching is relatively new when we're talking about how we're managing and leading others in the workplace. And of course, we know, what's traditionally been how we've managed employees, which is delegation, and performance reviews, and maybe discipline, or feedback in a way that's a little more focused on what you're not doing well in the workplace. And we're really seeing the transition from that perspective to a different perspective. And when we talk about coaching relationships in the workplace, we're really talking about uncovering someone's natural abilities, and strengths, and purpose in the workplace. And with the shifting of our work culture, our workplace cultures, especially since the pandemic, organizations are really beginning to look inside their organization to see how can we build our employees, because so many of them are leaving. And so, we don't have this post a job and here come 100 candidates. And we have all these people to choose from. That's just not how it is. And so, regardless of what the motivation is for moving for more of a management perspective to a more coaching perspective as leaders is the timely conversation that we're having here. And something that I know all of us really are doing our best with our clients to begin to teach and guide into how to become relationship builders. 

Cristina Amigoni: I love what you bring up, and the fact that it's definitely shifted in the industry. And it's not just the shift of hiring a coach or executives having executive coaches. That's one aspect that it's definitely more prevalent. But it's the whole how do we relate to each other as humans in the workplace that is taking on the coaching approach. And defining that is part of the challenge because of the older versions, the traditional understanding of coaching within the workplace, it's sometimes seen as performance improvement programs. It's like I need to coach you through this because this is a weakness or this is something that's not working out well. Which is, in reality, if we look at coaching from a certification perspective, I guess from a true coach perspective, it has nothing to do with performance improvement at that level. But it has everything to do with what you said, which is how can I help you become better? How can I unearth what you are already capable of? And you need the environment to allow for that to happen. 

Alex Cullimore: You said it really well. Kelli is saying that it's uncovering the natural abilities of people. Because it does still lead to performance improvement. That is still a part of the goal is to get people to engage and they will perform better. But it's not based on these kind of older ideas of it. Or the more euphemistic version, that when we first did our leadership as a coach, our leaders as coaches workshop, we were met with somebody who's like, "Well, how do you deal with the perception of coaching?" And we were like, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Well, when I was coming up in the 80s, every time you were being coached, that was basically you were on probation and this person was here to go correct you and get you back on track." And so, there's a danger of misusing that and thinking like, "Oh, I’m just going to call myself a coach and still go in and do those things." So, we wanted to clarify a little bit about what coaching really is. And I think that uncovering people's natural abilities and creating the elements in which they can thrive is the real crux of finding that coaching, finding that potential.

 Kelli Oberndorf: Absolutely. Yes. 

Cristina Amigoni: And one of the things that I’ve recently talked to with some of the coach training peers that I met for dinner is the fact that one of them felt bad about being part of the dinner because she never finished her certification. So, she's like, "Well, I’m not a coach." And I’m like, "You're a coach. You've coached me for six months in this program. Coached everybody else in the room. You're a coach." And so, coaching is really not about the title or the certification, it's about who you are and how you relate to other humans. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, absolutely. I think you hit the nail on the head there, which is we can get kind of caught up in semantics around it. And we like to say, "Oh, you have this. But you don't have that." And so, then you relabel you as this or label you as that. And I had employees when I was a leader in the healthcare industry that absolutely were. I had employees who were coaches, right? And because they came to the table with a certain level of skills that they could impart on the team. And I think we have to expand the definition of coaching so that we can focus on how to build the relationships with the people that we work with and help guide them. And that we all have a part in that process that this is a team process, right? And I think as we train the leaders, the people who are tasked with guiding their team to begin to become their own coaches in the organization and share that knowledge with the rest of the team. Even the leaders themselves, I mean, how many times have we been in a situation where we have an employee who's actually been somebody that they've taught us? And that they've coached us maybe not directly because that's not what we said it was. But they coached us to uncover our own leadership abilities. So, that give and take is so important to begin to implement, I guess, or for lack of a better word, into the culture of the organization that, "Hey, we're here to support each other. We're here to grow with each other." And there will be some things that I know and some ways that I know how to guide you. And then there'll also be ways that you know how to guide us. And how do we create that shared experience rather than, "I’m the leader. I'm the boss. You're the subordinate. I get to tell you what to do." 

Cristina Amigoni: Everybody loves that. 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. It works every time. 

Cristina Amigoni: Every time.

Alex Cullimore: So, let's define for our people what we see as coaching. And you've started that a little bit Kelli. You're talking about some of the traditional management versus the relationship building and uncovering talents. What are ways that you guys would help define coaching for people that might not have the context? 

Kelli Oberndorf: Sure. Absolutely. Relationship building, like I said. But really, it's not just a one-time thing. So, we think of like performance management in this way that's like, "Oh, it's your evaluation time." And really, the employees should know where they are the whole time throughout the entire year. This is not a one-time, once and done. You're doing great. Here's your raise. Or you only get this much. Or whatever, and we're done. And you go out the door, right? Coaching is a conversation. It's also so much based on curiosity. Curiosity of what the other person's experience is, right? When you learn to become a coach, questions are actually where you start from, is how you get the person to understand their unique talents and contributions. Not what you think they are, right? Maybe we can sort of like say, "Actually I see this in you. Do you see it in yourself?" right? And that's a way right that we can guide directly. But there's also this idea of propping up their strengths and using those strengths to help guide them to where maybe they could use a little more encouragement or guidance into using their natural abilities to something that maybe they're not as natural and are not as trained or experienced in, right? So, it's this ongoing conversation, this give and take, this curiosity of what the other person's experience is and really seeing what is it that they want to do. I use this term a lot. They're unique contribution. Because as humans, we're all unique, right? We might be doing the same job. We might have the same title, right? As somebody that sits next to us. But what I’m uniquely talented in and my unique contribution is not the same as yours or as theirs. And so, we come to the table with this idea of uncovering, of being curious, and of using their natural abilities and strengths to say, "How can you contribute to this team experience? And how can you help the organization, the team, grow?" And so, the leader, the coach and whoever that might be in the organization is that kind of investigator. It's saying, "I know you have something in there that you can really give the team. And I’m going to pull it out of you. I’m going to encourage you to show up as your authentic self." And so, to me, that's the definition, or is part of the definition of coaching. 

Cristina Amigoni: I love that. Yeah. And I would agree with all of it. It's really an uncovering. And it is a conversation. It's a lot more listening than talking, which may also be another misperception, is like, "Oh, you hired a coach so they can tell me what to do." I’m like, "No. No. No. So not. No. No. No. No." 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. That's definitely one thing we keep running into. When we bring in coaches to organizations, everything – we've had organizations be like, "But they have a background in what we do." And like, "Well, maybe. Maybe not. But either way, it shouldn't matter, because coaching isn't about like I’m here to go tell you how to do your job. Coaching is about you know the things you need to do. Let's address the blocks. Let's address the things that are stopping you from feeling like you can do this." And that's where coaching I think is so powerful. And definitely lead from a position of curiosity so you can go find those. Coaching is a great way to get to what is more root in the problems in an organization rather than just being like, "Oh, these teams like each other. Let's make sure they don't talk." Well, let's go back into this. Figure out why they don't talk. Why is there a problem here? What's causing this? What would be better? How would you guys like to operate and bring everybody back to the table and then find out what scars are there? What wounds are people holding on to that they don't feel like they can talk about? The only way to do that is having enough space, enough curiosity, and creating that safe zone for people to be like, "Okay, I think I can say what I needed to say here." If you could do that, then, suddenly, there's where you get the increased performance. They're going to feel better. The team's going to work better. That's, in my mind, some of the beauty of coaching, is getting to that. Finding people where they are and making sure you help them figure out how to get where they want to be.

Kelli Oberndorf: Exactly. And you bring a good point too around like the difference between maybe there's not so much a difference. But what you bring to individual one-on-one coaching and also how you bring that same energy to team coaching and how you uncover the team's unique contribution. And how that interacts with other teams. And we've talked, I think, in our first podcast together, and of course our conversations over the course of the last year, around those silos that really get created in that cross-cultural environment that really it's not bred into our organizations or corporations. We're used to saying, "Well, this is my job. This is what I do." And the other team is the problem. The other team is not doing what they're supposed to be doing. So, we're always pointing the finger at someone else's problem. And really, how can we create a safe container for transparency and a truth to be present without aggression, make wrong? And that requires this idea of being introspective of our own responsibility, which is also a huge part of coaching, is where are you responsible and what you're doing and how you're interacting the relationships you're building on your team? As well as the relationships cross-departmentally. And so, there's certain aspects that you can bring to that one-on-one coaching that also very much apply to team coaching, although the container is slightly different.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, creating this space is definitely the big piece of that both at the individual level and the team coaching. And really understanding like not just how is my spot, how's my role fitting into the ecosystem? And so, starting to open up that possibility of thinking beyond ourselves, which also coaching really helps with. Because approaching coaching from a curiosity point of view also helps us on the receiving end to become curious about ourselves and others. And as soon as we kind of start shifting that curiosity in ourselves and others and reduce the judgment, that's when we now have a much more open possibility for looking at us as part of a we and as part of a team as opposed to, "Well, I’m doing my job. It's everybody else's problem." Like, "Is it? Is it everybody else's problem?" Could you eliminate everybody else and still be successful? 

Kelli Oberndorf: Right. 

Alex Cullimore: That's where group relationship portion comes up a lot. And you mean individual coaching, most of the blocks are going to end up being some additional to. Either you feel like it's your relationship to a situation or you feel blocked by something external, or an external person. And so, it can feel like there's a lot of like relationship in coaching. And you work on relationships. And that's – I think sometimes these people a little off-put. Like, "Well, that's not the problem. Our problem is the work's not being done." Like, "Yes." But the work's probably not being done because there's friction in a bunch of relationships. When you dig down into this, it's always like, "Well, I just – when a person's hard to deal with, I don't want to talk him. I'm like, "Well, okay. That's fair. So, how do we work on this?" What would we do? What do we want to do better?" And I think people can also start to get confused then like on if it's relationships. Is this like some kind of therapy? And it's helpful, but it's a very different idea than therapy.

Kelli Oberndorf: I’m glad you brought that up, because something that I really focus with my clients on when I’m coaching them one-on-one is this concept of already always listening. And that concept really comes from our judgment of somebody else, right? And that judgment could come from maybe an interaction, a direct interaction that we've had with this person that didn't go well for whatever reason. Or we perceived them in a particular way. And so, then we've put them in a box that says, "This is how they always are." The other option for that is that they remind us of somebody from our past. And so, we put them in this category. We put them in this – I talk a lot about this file cabinet, right? And every time we see this person, every time we interact with this person, we kind of pull out the file and we write down, "See? I was right. This is how they are." And the problem with that is that we actually never allow them to show up any different. So, that one interaction you had, that one negative thing that they did, we have no idea where that comes from. But we like to pretend like we do know where that comes from, right? And that's kind of one of our blocks as being a human, is that we tend to judge people based on what we think that we know about them. But in so many times – For me, for sure, I’ll be like, "Oh, I’m making some judgment. I’ll put that person in a box." Then they show up and I uncover something. And I’m like, "Wow! That wasn't right. I didn't actually hit the mark with that person. That was a judgment." I put them in a box. I said, "This is how that they are." But then maybe I uncover or they uncover for me a different way of thinking. Or maybe they come to the table and say, "Man, I’m really sorry that I did that. That wasn't actually – I snapped at you. And it was because of this." But most likely they're not even going to say that, right? Because we don't feel safe to come to the table and say, "That really bothered me." Or, "Hey, can we work this problem out?" We just decide to just never talk to them again if at all possible. And when we do that in the work environment, now, instead of coming together, we're actually just separating. And we're just avoiding. And we're being passive aggressive. That's the pretty much leading behavior in organizations. And how can we actually break down those walls? And it does come from being introspective and being like, "Ooh! I made a judgment." Or, "Oh! Yeah, that person kind of reminds me of somebody." And so, when you say therapy, sure, maybe you would also uncover that in therapy. But really, it's about can you actually try on that maybe you're wrong about a person and give them an opportunity to show up in a different way? 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. 

Cristina Amigoni: And that's very hard. 

Alex Cullimore: And it's very much a coaching thing to go acknowledge that that is normal. It's normal that we have these judgments, so our brains can only hold so much information. You're not going to treat every single interaction as a brand new one. You have to track some amount of history or start to categorize. Because as you meet more and more people, you can't keep track of every single individual aspect you've known about them. And you're always influenced by your situation, whatever's going on in your head at the time. And so, it's totally normal to have these judgments. But that doesn't mean that it's helpful. And we have a chance to do something different. So, coaching is a way to acknowledge that, "Yes. Okay, tease that out. Get to the introspection. Get to the point where you understand, "Yes, I’m making a judgment here. And that might actually be serving me, or the team, or what we need to do." And starting to let that go and figuring out what we can you differently. And is that there's an assumption I made and tucked away in my file cabinet forever. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Right. this is how you always are. I’m always already listening to you before I even walk in the door. Before I even get into this meeting, I know you're going to be exactly like that. And you know what? Typically, they show up like that too, right? 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it's creating the script of how the conversation goes before the conversation even happens. And it's hard. It's hard not to. It's something that we all do and we all do all the time. And it's hard not to. And it's like catching yourself. I’m like, "Wait, why am I having this conversation with that person in the shower if I haven't even talked to them yet?" And it's all in my head. And in my head, I already have the answers, and the reactions, and the arguments, and all of these things. When all it is, it's, "Okay, let's just start the conversation in a curious way and then be open to let it go where it goes." 

Alex Cullimore: As opposed to planning out the next three months and digging in your trenches and making sure you have the supply line stereo trenches so that you can continue to go bad or the other side. Yeah, there's two different ways to do this. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yes, leaders, if we're managing our employees or a team, it is about helping the leader uncover and understand how to help the employee uncover those blocks around relationship building. And even if there's agreement, which is always so dangerous to have agreement about a certain person or a certain team. Because if the leader also says, "Yeah, yeah, they're always like that. I totally agree with you." Then we're just perpetuating the problem. So, the leader actually has to stop doing that and hold a different perspective and start asking those questions of like, "Okay, what are some solutions that you could do? Or what are some ideas that you have so that we don't have to continue beating our head against the wall with this team or this person?" Can we actually show up in a different way? Can we bring communication? Can we bring compassion to the person or the the situation? Which is always such an interesting term when we're talking about organizations, because it seems so, "Oh! Well, that's not compassion." We think it's like some Kryptonite to a team. But in fact, it's actually something that can actually grow the strength and the relationships, which in turn hopefully builds the retention inside the organization as well. 

Alex Cullimore: Oh, that's a great point. The compassion as a theme is kind of a Kryptonite. Nobody wants to like touch the word, and it's hilarious. Because when you see people come and they're like, "There's no room for emotions and feelings in the workplace." That's usually the person who has screamed and yelled at their team that one time. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, I guess. 

Alex Cullimore: What do you think that was, you think there was a little emotion in that?

Cristina Amigoni: Screaming has nothing to do with emotions. Let's think about that a little bit.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. Can we define healthy emotions? 

Alex Cullimore: There's no room for emotions in the workplace. So, like, "I'm furious." 

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. Yeah. Kindness, and compassion, and empathy, those are definitely not you know meant for the workplace, because they're healthy emotions. Unhealthy emotions, like, resentment, anger, and all of those, let's please – You know, let's fester those and grow them as much as possible. Judgment. 

Alex Cullimore: Pack them in your suitcase every morning. Make sure you bring them in. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Oh, it's like Fantastic Beasts. Here's a very fantastic Beast suitcase of the day. Everybody release your anger, and envy, and all of those right now. But keep the compassion away. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Friendliness. No. No. None of that. 

Alex Cullimore: There's no place for emotions in the workplace. Also, I have been known to describe this meeting we have with our team as a death match. But that's fine. That's normal.

Kelli Oberndorf: Oh, boy. Yeah. 

Alex Cullimore: I love what you said, Kelli, about like teaching leaders to do this to create that space and continually remove the blocks from employees. I think that's where people – Like, they see the value of correcting some of the courses and undoing some of the blocks. But if you teach the leaders to do this, that becomes systemic. And now it's systemic that as an organization we treat blockers this way. And we're happy to have the conversations. We're willing to be curious. Then you have the train rolling in the future that start to understand those blockers, start to unblock that. Whenever it's inevitably going to slow, we build up over time in some new way or some situational come up. Or a pandemic will happen, and you'll have to go through lots of different coaching to get to that point. But if you train your organization to respond in this way, you're ready to go face a lot more challenges, which we all know from experience are going to happen over and over and over again. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Absolutely. 

Cristina Amigoni: So, from a leadership perspective, unless we get every single leader out there certified as a coach to learn the technique, what are some ways that we can help leaders become coaches to their employees without necessarily needing the certification or feeling that they need their certification? 

Kelli Oberndorf: Well, I was reading an article from Deloitte. And they were basically connecting a coach from an athletic perspective, like an athlete coach. And really drawing the line of like bringing some of those characteristics into the leadership of employees. And so, when we think about what a coach does, is they huddle with their team. They huddle with their athlete. And they give them guidance and also uncover their natural potential, right? And they encourage that natural potential by saying, "Okay, run this way instead. Change this little dynamic in the way in which you're moving your body," or whatever the case is, or whatever sport it is. And it's those fine tweaks, right? Those fine-tuning that makes that athlete. And it also builds that relationship between the coach and the athlete. And really, we can just take that into the workplace. And so, when you bring that perspective, we all know what an athletic coach does, right? We watch sports. We're a sports-driven culture. So, we know what that looks like, right? And when the team comes together and they're like, "All right, this is what we're going to do. This is the play we're going to do. This is how we're going to do it." And they're working together in a way that has this common goal. Now, common goal in sports is to win. And so, when we ask ourselves, "Well, what's winning in an organization?" That can get a little dicey, right? Because maybe the company says, "Well, winning is all about the bottom line. And it's all about dominating some sort of market." So, we do have to tweak our understanding just a little bit on that so that doesn't quite connect, right? But winning could also look like being content in your job. Working towards common goals. Addressing little slip-ups or areas for improvement so that we can fine tune ourselves to be performing in a way that's really uncovering and building our natural potential rather than just the the potential that the organization wants you to have. But it is how do we align what the organization's needs are to what the employee's natural potential is? And then encourage both of those. And with that, then you actually see growth, right? And so, when we build that into the culture, you start seeing things like customer service improving, okay? Retention, which is what we've talked about. And also, just this personal satisfaction, which is like I want to work here. Whenever I manage people, my thought process was like, "I want you to want to work with me as your leader. Not necessarily the other way around, right? Of course, if I’m hiring you, I want to work with you. Or at least that's the given, right? But actually, I want the employees to want to work on my team. And in order for me to get that done is to build the relationships. To coach them. To uncover their potential, so that we're all working together towards a common goal. I would say that would be my answer to that question, which is really just more about aligning and connecting, right? 

Alex Cullimore: That brings up a wonderful word that I’ve forgotten to use in the definition. One of the things that comes up in coaching is co-creating. They're co-creating success. You're co-creating a space for these things to happen. So, co-creating definitions of what winning means. Co-creating that collaboration. And I love what you said about like wanting to work on the team, Kelli, because that brings back the emotions in the workplace piece. People are like, "There's no room for emotions in the workplace." All right. That's great. Pause. When you want it to work for a place, how well did you work? Versus when you did not want to work for your bus, how well did that work?" So, let's go back into that. And why this is important? Why that will end up helping the team then? I love the sports coach metaphor as well, because I think a fun assignment, if you want to get some idea of some brilliant coaching, is going and watching Ted Lasso.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. 

Alex Cullimore: It's very funny. And it's also just a great example of how we're going to create success on a diverse and difficult team. It's a wonderful show. Really, I couldn't say enough about that one. And then the other one is – we have other tips. Like, Christina's favorite acronym that I’ve ever come up with is LAVA for some tips on how to coach. And LAVA stands for listening, acknowledging, validating and asking open-ended questions. And those are the core tenants if you really want to just get into a coaching conversation. Listen very well. Acknowledge that whatever's happening – And knowing that acknowledging is not the same as accepting or saying that this has to be the way that it is. It's just acknowledging, like we were talking about, that it's natural to have judgments. There's acknowledgment that, yes, this is a judgment, validating. It's totally normal to have those judgments. It doesn't mean that it's helpful and you should continue to make them. It's just about acknowledging and validating that, yes, this is very normal. We all experience this. And then ask open-ended questions. Coming in and being very curious about, "Well, what does that mean to you?" You said you feel blocked on this. Irritated by this person. Expand on that. What does that mean? What does that like? You feel frustrated with this. What's causing this? 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, definitely. And the acronym, it's LAVA. It's part of that. We've talked about how good coaches – a coach that listens and creates the space. And they do that also by asking really good questions. And so, one of the things that we always try to, especially with our clients, distinguish when we're talking about you know leaders becoming coaches. So, leading as a coach, is that open-ended questions. What does that mean? Well, first of all, you can't answer it with yes or no. That's what an open-ended question is. And then there's some taboo ways of open-ended questions, like asking why? Why creates defensiveness just out of the gate. And so, using what and how a lot more. And then creating that space for that listening. It's like listening for curiosity. Not listening for judgment. Not listening for responses. Not listening for comparing how you would do things. It's just listening for curiosity. 

Alex Cullimore: And it's listening in a deep way. It's not just listening to the words. It's not the same as like reading a transcript of the conversation. It's listening for what was the real tones. They might have said a bunch of stuff about some other – some project they're on. But the real underpinning thing if you listen is like, "Oh, they seem really frustrated every time X comes up." If you're really listening, you can hear the tone shifts, so you can hear the things that might really be driving this. At which point, you have a much better angle to ask, a, another open-ended question. And b, start to get to the center of what might be blocking someone. Like, get to the point of, "Hey, this seems to be a recurring pattern. Is it fair to say that it seems like this?" And suddenly you're having a much more in-depth conversation closer to the core of a problem instead of, "Oh, I just couldn't get my timesheet on-time. So, let's talk about setting a reminder on your calendar or something." 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. And what you said Cristina, I really connected to. When you're asking a question, you also have to be careful of a question disguised as like advice, right? So, why didn't you do this? Or have you ever thought about doing X, Y and Z is really me giving advice in like covert way inside of a question. And it's really not about giving advice, unless somebody says, "I really need – what would you do in this situation?" But even if they say that, even if they say, "Tell me what you would do." Sure, you can say, "This is what I would do." But there's also space for you to say, "Well, before I answer that question, let's get to the root of why you're asking that question." What is actually upsetting you? Is it just this person who always does this thing? Or is there something else? Is there something deeper, which is what you are speaking to, Alex, is really listening for what is being said? Not listening necessarily to the exact words, right? The words will point us in the right direction. But then it's like what's actually behind them? What are they actually saying? Can we see patterns in this employee that maybe we can start to uncover and give them a space where we're not going to say, "Well, that's not right." Or, "that's wrong." Or, "Don't you think you should do this instead?" And that is really more from a directing point of view or more of a superiority. Like, "I know. I’m in this position. You're with my employees. So, here's the thing," right? We can do that with like skills, right? We can teach you or say you've got to do this because this is what your job is. But when you're really talking more in this interpersonal way, which is so much of what we do when we're coaching individuals, is really how they're interacting. What's the inter personal nature? And why are we stopped inside of that relationship with that person? And can we open and broaden our perspective? And can we get to the root cause of why the person is bothering us? It's not just because this one thing that they do, right? It's because when they do this one thing, then I actually take on more of the job. And that means that I’m feeling that we're not equal. That we're not balanced. That they're not being accountable for their job. And that we end up being more accountable than they do, right? And so, it's a little more about like getting to the root of the issue rather than just addressing the problem itself. 

Alex Cullimore: You have a great example of one of the easy traps to fall into, is like, "Okay. Well, so I have to ask questions. So, I’m just going to ask a question that is just a wrapper around some advice I want to give." Like, "Oh, you don't get along with that person? Well, how would you feel about being in a meeting with them that I just scheduled to put on your calendar?" You're like, "Well, that doesn't seem like it's really asking." But it's easy to fall into something like that. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Right. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, yeah. Well, and also, I like the focus on the figuring out what the root cause is, which is leaders in the workplace, it's very easy because of the speed of things. Because of wanting to just get things done and get into the actions and moving on to the next thing. And the perceived notion of not having time for coaching conversations, then the tendency is really to all become chief problem officers. And the focus is like I just got to bring a solution. Just tell me what your problem is. I’m going to tell you the solution. You go do it. I’m done. Next. And it's like this revolving door of problem solving. When at the core, yes, it does take more time to have a coaching conversation around a problem that was brought on and figuring out what the root cause was. And guiding the employee and the team member to figuring out what the solution is. And if you do it, you may have less of a revolving door that keeps coming back over and over and over and over. And so, it's a long-term strategy to coach through that. And also, not throw solutions. I mean, that's one of the things that happens all the time, is, like, "Oh, there's a fire. Let me put out the fire." And I’m like, "How about you figure out what the cause of the fire is instead of constantly just putting out the fire?" And are you putting out the fire or you just masking it with something else? Because you don't really know what the root cause is of the problem. And so, the solution doesn't fit. 90% of the time when we throw solutions at a problem, we don't dig in. It's not the right solution. That's not actually what's going on. 

Alex Cullimore: Fire keeps coming out of the kitchen. Let's just keep an extinguisher near the door to the kitchen. 

Kelli Oberndorf: But the coals continue to burn, right? The coals are just always burning, right? And like, we think of it – Like, take it one step further, which is like the volcano. It's like, well, there's always fire in the volcano. But it doesn't always erupt, right? And so, it is about like how to be we get to the root cause of where that fire is actually coming from? Rather than just throwing water on it and saying, "Okay. Well, we solved that problem." But you really didn't solve that problem.

Cristina Amigoni: And is it a bad fire? Maybe it was the fire on the stove, so that I could cook dinner. And you just threw water on it. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Good point. 

Cristina Amigoni: Because of the reaction of like, "There's a fire. Water. Fire. Water." I’m like, "No, no, no. I was actually trying to boil pasta. But thanks for delaying the process now." 

Alex Cullimore: Now, I have soggy pasta. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. Yeah, and there's nothing worse than putting out somebody's flame that actually may be igniting inspiration on the team. Actually, fire isn't always such a bad thing, right? Fire actually can be something that warms us, right? It can be something that cooks our food. It can be something – and if you can take that into the workplace, it's like, actually, how do we stoke the fires that keep us moving forward and put out the fires that don't, for sure. But I think that does take that listening that we were talking about earlier, which is like listening for what needs to be continued as opposed to what needs to be discontinued to help moving the team, moving the person and employee forward. 

Alex Cullimore: That's 100% accurate. It is definitely. And coaching is a great way to get to those root causes. And Cristina, you bring up a good mental trap that's easy to fall into. It's like, "Yeah, yeah. Okay, fine. It's better to solve things at the root level. But I don't have time for that. So, I’m just going to keep like throwing water everywhere I see smoke." And the real question at that point is do you want to lose time now or later? Because you're going to be secretly losing time to the root problem while it's slowly boiling over. And eventually, you're going to have to address the problem anyway because it's going to come out way stronger. And people are going to be way more resistant to doing anything about it by the time you actually do have to address it. Because now, the cause has become the symptom. And now you can finally do it. Would you rather solve that earlier? Or would you rather lose the time in the meantime to solve it later? 

Cristina Amigoni: One of my favorite questions as a coach is when people say I don't have time. I used to ask them, like, "Really? Who controls your time?" And that's usually is the beginning of the unpacking. Like, "Well, I do." I’m like, "Okay. So, what can you do with that time?" Because I don't have time is a very common surface block or something much, much deeper. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. Where do we waste time by focusing on things that keep us confined, right? So, is that gossip? Is it checking out on our phones? Is it leaving early from work? Like, there are things where it's more about the misuse of time than it is that we don't actually have time. And that deflecting of, "Well, I don't have enough time to do that." Which, Alex, do you point out is like, "Well, you may not do it now. But you're going to do it later. And if you don't put out the campfire and the embers get out, then we have a forest fire." Rather than putting out the fire or keeping it contained inside of an environment. And so, yeah, time conversation is the big one. 

Alex Cullimore: I think a great phrase on that one is the – I think a great phrase on that is that if you don't make time to stay healthy, you will lose time being sick. Like, if you don't keep yourself healthy, you will get sick. So, which way would you like to use your time? And I think, personally, that's the thing that I have loved and hated most about learning how to coach is that you really can't make excuses to yourself anymore. Like, when you hear yourself saying like, "Well, I don't have time." You're like, "I know that's not true." 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. Then you start coaching yourself. Yeah. I guess it's the goal, there could be a goal there too. 

Cristina Amigoni: It's definitely a moment of downfall. So, becoming a coach. 

Alex Cullimore: It's a benefit, and it's sometimes frustrating. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, we do start hearing yourself. 

Cristina Amigoni: You see your gremlin come out and like, "Oh, come on."

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, exactly.

Cristina Amigoni: Can I just let him out to play for one second without knowing that it's the gremlin? And I’m supposed to be doing something about it. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Exactly. 

Alex Cullimore: I don't have time. And then, internally, you're already raising eyebrows at yourself. You're like, "Is that true? Are you sure? Is that for real?”

Cristina Amigoni: How true is that? As your binge watch Ted Lasso for the fourth time. 

Alex Cullimore: Telling yourself it's work study. 

Cristina Amigoni: Well, we know we asked you this in our third podcast with you, and it would be interesting to see if anything has changed on your definition of authenticity. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Authenticity to me is really the ability to show up as our truest selves to create safe spaces for others to show up as their true selves. And to create those connections. And maybe that's the same thing that I said before. 

Cristina Amigoni: I don't know. We'll have to go compare. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Go compare. But, yeah, I think there is the part of where we can break through those filters, those barriers, from me to connect with you. And if I can let those walls down, we can create that safe space between us. Then my true self has a space to shine through. And I’m not speaking from those filters. And I’m not protecting myself with those barriers. But that we can let those go. And I can show up in my truest form. 

Alex Cullimore: I love that. That is a great definition. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, love that. And we'll have to go back and look at the notes and see how it compares. But it does remind me a bit of coaching, especially organizational coaching in a way, of approaching any project with a coaching mindset. Of walking in with the curiosity. And then observing what happens in this space. What happens in the space when certain individuals are present and others are not? And then starting to kind of compile that knowledge to figure out what is it that changes? What causes the change? And as an organizational coach, what can I do to recreate the space that was there with certain people, but it's missing when others are in the room? 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, that's deep, Cristina. Yeah, yeah. 

Cristina Amigoni: It’s like, we did that every day, all day. It's like, "Huh, this is an interesting meeting. That's different from last week’s. What was the difference there? What caused the difference here?" 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. And I think that's true. It's like kind of goes to what we were talking about before, is like we have these filters with people, right? Some people we feel like we can be ourselves and other peoples we feel like we're maybe a little more stifled, or I’d have to be more defensive, or I have to create a posture that presents a certain part of my personality, or persona, or idea of who I think you want me to be. And really, it's can we create a team, environment, an organization, where people can actually be their authentic selves? And that's our job as leaders, in my opinion, is to help them break down those walls to show up. Because if they can show up as their authentic selves, man, the sky's the limit. Sky is the limit. 

Cristina Amigoni: We've worked ourselves out of a job as leaders and coaches. 

Alex Cullimore: Ain't that right? 

Kelli Oberndorf: Right. 

Alex Cullimore: So, I think it's pretty obvious now why Kelli is on the team.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. And she'll be back on the podcast as a regular. 

Alex Cullimore: Yes.

Kelli Oberndorf: We have a lots more to talk about. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Time being one of them. 

Kelli Oberndorf: Empathy. 

Cristina Amigoni: Empathy, yes. 

Alex Cullimore: Normally we'd ask where people can find you. But one of the new places people will be able to find you is on the Siamo website. So, look her up there. Anything else that you want to plug as well, Kelli? 

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, Siamo website. And then my small business of Banyan Collective is also where you can find me. And really, it's the reason why we're together is because our organizations really are the same. We have so many similar values. And I’m just really grateful that we get to merge those two and become a we. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Bigger wes with same value. Very exciting. Well, thank you, Kelli.

Alex Cullimore: Well, thank you so much, Kelli. And thank you everyone for listening. 

Cristina Amigoni: We'll see you soon. 

Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 

Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood. 

Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast wearesiamo.com, or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.

Kelli OberndorfProfile Photo

Kelli Oberndorf

Certified Professional Facilitator and Coach

Kelli holds a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration and is a Certified Professional Facilitator and Coach. She empowers individuals and organizations to invest in the wellbeing of their employees and themselves by strengthening relationships, building trust, and establishing community within the companies she works with. Kelli is highly skilled in interpersonal and team dynamics, conflict resolution, and 1:1 management coaching. Her work is practical, applicable, and will improve communication, kindness, and trust throughout the organization.