Archives for 2019

You are browsing the site archives by date.

,

Executive Coaching

toptem-coachingFar from a nice chat, coaching can be extremely valuable to business.

But how do we measure this? How can you know you are getting value for money?  Quite simply, the value is in the time and space to think, facilitated to ensure clear progress is made. We rarely take time to step back, stop and think. We face a challenge, we find a solution and we run with it.

It’s no wonder with this pattern of working that we often end up realising months have gone by and we have not thought about overall performance, strategic direction, personal goals etc.

By taking that time to think with a facilitator, we become more effective, find ways around our fears and areas where we might lack confidence. It’s a difficult one to quantify – but think of a manager suddenly having the confidence to manage a poor performing team. Imagine you, at your best, performing with greater efficiency and focus. It’s all extremely valuable.

Jelly Bean Diversity

How can we measure the value of coaching?

As with any activity where it is difficult to quantify impact or benefit, the key is in the original objectives. It is only when we know what impact we are aiming for that we can measure whether any activity has been successful. It is for this reason that coaching objectives need to be aligned to business needs.

Consider exactly what you want to see happen and how you would know if it had happened.

Let’s take an example of a senior executive who is performing well in many areas, but struggling to build relationships with key players and influence change. This scenario is a perfect opportunity for coaching. Training in this instance would provide knowledge about what the executive should do, but coaching will more rapidly get to the heart of existing barriers and how to move past these.

To measure whether coaching has been effective in this scenario, we could define some clear objectives. For example, “by the end of a six month coaching programme, this executive will have:

  • Built positive relationships with departments X and Y, demonstrated by a 10% increase in the number of projects they are working on together
  • Influenced change in at least two areas where they were previously frustrated with a lack of progress
  • Created an action plan to move the department toward their vision over the next 3 months”

Maximising your coaching session

So as long as you set clear objectives and measure the business benefit of these throughout your coaching programme, you can be clear on the ROI of the coach.

To maximise the value you gain:

  • Define your objectives, being really clear about what would be different if the coaching was effective
  • Start with an open mind, then give your coach prompts on what is working well for you
  • Keep evaluating what you are gaining from the time and money invested
  • Calculate the financial impact of the changes you have made since meeting with coach – whether that is time saved, more productive meetings etc, you should be able to estimate an amount
Read More
, , ,

Managing and Influencing Download

BarMagnet1 400x265How to successfully manage and influence others – without reading the book! 

Over the years we’ve heard all sorts of concerns and fears come up that new managers and indeed those who have managed people for decades hold onto.

Things like:

  • I can’t tell people off
  • I can’t tell my boss what to do
  • How do I tell someone they’re not performing well?

We’ve addressed some of these concerns and others in this downloadable guide.

manage-influence

Years of advising, coaching and facilitating the development of change agents in businesses has shown us that success in this area boils down to some simple concepts – if you’d like to find out more follow me

Read More
,

The Six Capabilities of Effective Leaders

Leadership 400x265Shouldn’t that be seven, habits and people?  Er, different book.

As globalisation has taken a hold of business, it’s become increasingly important for leaders to understand their role and capabilities within this new global view.  It’s now essential that leaders are adaptive to the changing marketplace and recognise the commercial value inherent in that change.

You can no longer ignore the potential gain to be derived from a single tweet any less than the potential loss from an incoherent strategic vision.

This is forcing leaders to step forward into the limelight, and those that are commercially thriving under this scrutiny have done so by introducing a transparency to their interactions with the world.

This transparency is essential because they depend upon people they will never meet, suppliers or partners in different businesses and they will have an increasing reliance on their peer network, both within their existing business and their competitors.

In a recent book, The Elastic Enterprise by  Nick Vitalari & Haydn Shaughnessy

elastic

they highlighted six capabilities that these successful leaders exhibit:

  • Invention
  • Re-framing
  • Attraction & Orchestration
  • Influence
  • Drawing the Line
  • De-Risking

What we’ve found fascinating is how tightly their research has overlapped with our understanding of entrepreneurship, and what makes entrepreneurs so commercially astute.  Increasingly we are being asked to identify people with entrepreneurial flair, to lead large businesses to success – hence the growing popularity of the term intrepreneur.

A brilliant demonstration of why the intreprenurial spirit is key to success in modern business has recently been shared by Miranda Birch, a previous guest blogger with us and someone we highly recommend you check out here.

We’ve defined a number of commercial capabilities that are present in the top performing managers, leaders and entrepreneurs, irrespective of geography and business type.  These commercial capabilities, rolled into one and known to us as Commercial Brilliance are a granular understanding of the behaviours and characteristics of an individual who is nothing short of a commercial genius.

Vitalari and Shaughnessy’s research is a great starting point to understanding these brilliance behaviours and characteristics – so we’ve summarised their findings for you below.

Totem Gummi Bears

Invention – All of the leaders they studied were quite capable of generating fresh and innovative ideas.  Leaders need to be comfortable tinkering with systems and knowing something new can come of it. They have to be driven by novelty.

Re-framing – Or changing your perspective is a critical capability in our emerging leaders.  They have the ability re-interpret the vision, mission and values of an organisation – and most importantly, engage all of those around them with that new interpretation.

Attraction & Orchestration – As a leader in an evolving organisation, they have to attract and coordinate a remarkable number of business elements.  But the leader needs to do this very much as a conductor coordinates his orchestra, with passion, flair and complete mastery.

Influence  – Leaders need to master the organisations internal and external information architecture, using it to promote the their wider vision whilst including everyone from the little guy, to the hugely influential collectives that sweep through social media platforms.  That means cultivating a habit of appearing both wise and flexible, being vocal but attentive.

Drawing the Lines – The commercial capabilities of these leaders require them to push the boundaries, product innovation, market placement and team performance to name but three.  But in pushing those boundaries they will need to draw the line between consultation and instruction.

Key stakeholders will always want to have their opinions heard, but also need to be lead.

De-Risking – The new global economy requires a new approach to risk, it’s become a hyper-competitive environment, with threats and opportunities in the most unlikely of places.  Leaders are demonstrating this with radical sideways moves into markets where they have no core competency.

Leaders must now possess the skill of developing and maintaining a portfolio of strategic options. The strategic options portfolio is a constant search for new options, new alternatives, and new markets.

Watching the world and seeing new opportunities is now a critical capability for our leaders.

Read More
,

HR and BIG Data

Big-Data2-400x265We get that it’s Data, but why is it BIG?

There’s a lot of talk about big data, and some have talked about the opportunity for HR to make use of greater analytics for workforce data, but we believe there is also more HR teams can do to support the pace of change business is facing.

In case you’ve not come across the term, “big data” is the title given to the simply jaw-dropping amount of information that is being generated, stored and could be analysed across all the systems out there.

From a customer perspective, you’ve got all the data on how someone moves around your website, how they got there, what other sites they browsed, what they buy, how they talk about you on social media, what feedback they then give on your service feedback capture – and the list goes on.

There’s no doubt there’s an opportunity for HR teams to take a good look at the big data available on the workforce.  What questions do we have about our employees, their behaviour, performance, activities etc?  What data is available or could we be capturing to answer those questions?

Beyond HR analytics

Aside from following the trend of analysing data, we see the role of HR – or specifically Talent and OD as one of building up the organisation to be ready for this seismic shift in how business works.  What are we doing in the Talent and OD space to make sure we are attracting and retaining the kind of talent that can take our businesses to the forefront of these changes?  What are we doing to build awareness and develop skills across all departments, so that people can make their own intelligent decisions on what to do with all this change and data?

Building awareness of what big data is and how it is changing the nature of business, could mean an unlocking of new opportunities: To have more people thinking of how to analyse the data available – and use those insights to make informed decisions.

Totem Gummi Bears

As the inspiration for this came from Sir Ian Cheshire’s Retail Lecture, let’s look at particularly what this could mean for HR teams in retail.  What do people across departments and out in stores know about the digitalisation and mobile shift in retail – and the big data that comes with that?  What does that mean to us in our jobs in retail?  How do we need to adapt?  Imagine roadshows where with this knowledge and understanding, your entire workforce can suggest ideas on how the company better respond and lead the way.

Although we’re all customers, shopping online and getting frustrated when the experience is not smooth – or when the app on my phone says something’s in-stock and we get into store and it’s not – that has not meant we have quickly grasped what this means to our work and businesses.  Big changes in the world are communicated throughout businesses to enable people to make choices and decisions – and this is one thing they definitely need to know about.

What could you do?

It’s easy to hold our heads in the sand when the world is changing and we’re not sure what that means or how to keep up.  We recommend exploring with your team – what do we know about shifts in our customer and employee digital behaviour, what big data that may be providing, and what that might all mean to our jobs and business?

Realising you don’t know the answers to these questions can be a great starting point to finding out, challenging the rest of the business to do the same, and seeing where you can go from there.

Happy exploring!

Read More
, , ,

Learning Styles

Little geniusHow Do We Each Learn Things?

Each person learns in a slightly different way to everyone else, and many theories have been put forward to explain these differences; in fact there have been over 70 theories postulated!

Each theory has its strengths and weaknesses, with plenty of evidence either supporting or refuting it.  Let’s explore one of the more long lived theories shall we?

One of the most widely used learning theories is the VARK model, developed by Neil Fleming.  This has been widely applied to educational settings and influenced materials used by teachers.  Suffice to say it’s quite popular and it’s likely that we and our children have been taught with this model in mind.

In this model, four types of learning styles are identified: visual, auditory; read-writing and kinaesthetic.  Fleming argued that each type of learning requires a different approach, for example, visual learners learn best with pictures, visual aids and diagrams.  Others will benefit from learning approaches such as movement, acting, experiments or listening to lectures and podcasts.

As this model is so widely used and referred to, it is possible that the use of learning styles could increase delegates’ awareness of their own individual approach and therefore benefit their learning.  But that sounds like a training course on how to go a training course!

Totem Lollipops

It’s important to remember that when you’re designing any workshop or training course, you’d do well to integrate a variety of exercises that touch upon these VARK learning models.  Nobody learns a great deal from a full day of Power Point slides…

Learning styles are arguably, too simplistic an explanation for learning, which is inherently a complex process.  You’ll often here the term ‘blended learning’ – it means slightly different things in different contexts, but for us it’s about creating a learning journey using a range of different, but blended exercises.

Quite critically, blended learning relies on the skill of the training deliverer to recognise the needs of the individual delegates and to adapt their approach to teaching within that context.

So what’s the secret sauce to effective learning for all?

Quite simply, there isn’t one.  Learning is as individual as the people teaching as those learning.  The best approach going forward is to expect to be flexible, and change the methods of teaching accordingly.

If delegates are included in the process and teachers are willing to be that bit more flexible then the perfect learning situation should be created.  However, this really is an idealised version of learning and how practical and applicable this is in the work place on a daily basis is a whole other question.

Getting in touch with us about learning styles is brilliantly simple – just follow me!

Read More
, ,

Why Perfectionism Isn’t Perfect

Peas 400x265Why Being Mr. (or Mrs.) Perfect may not be so perfect after all.

Perfectionism is one of those wonderful character traits that we all aspire too, but can often lead to drastically negative behaviour.  It continually points to our failures, no matter how small and undermines our achievements.

Culturally, we prize perfectionism; Steve Jobs is frequently held as an ideal for insisting on perfection.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, adaptability is a key ingredient in resilient people.  And resilient people are the ones who will come back time and again to face a challenge.  The irony of perfectionism is that eventually, the perfectionist will give up.  And whatever challenge they faced will be left un-conquered.  Was Steve Jobs a perfectionist?  Or was he able to adapt his ideas to the modern marketplace?  That debate still rages on in our office today.

But research now shows us that perfectionism is an acquired trait, we’re certainly not born with it.  How perfect were your idle doodles as a 4 year old?  Could they have been better?

One interesting shift in modern society is the pressure we place on our children to succeed.  Without the requisite social skills in place, children often perceive this pressure as criticism.  And it’s this perceived criticism that works its way into the psyche and develops as a trait.

One side effect to perfectionism is a focus on control; it encourages rigid thinking and behaviour.  That’s precisely the opposite of what is required from individuals across organisations in the modern context, where we want to see innovation and flexibility.

According to Psychology Today:

“Perfectionism reduces playfulness and the assimilation of knowledge; if you’re always focused on your own performance and on defending yourself, you can’t focus on learning a task. Here’s the cosmic thigh-slapper: Because it lowers the ability to take risks, perfectionism reduces creativity and innovation—exactly what’s not adaptive in the global marketplace.”

“Yet, it does more. It is a steady source of negative emotions; rather than reaching toward something positive, those in its grip are focused on the very thing they most want to avoid—negative evaluation. Perfectionism, then, is an endless report card; it keeps people completely self-absorbed, engaged in perpetual self-evaluation—reaping relentless frustration and doomed to anxiety and depression.”

Totem Gummi Bears

Below we list some of the personality traits exhibited by perfectionists.

Concern over mistakes: Perfectionists tend to interpret mistakes as equivalent to failure and to believe they will lose the respect of others following failure.

High personal standards: Perfectionists don’t just set very high standards but place excessive importance on those standards for self-evaluation.

Parental expectations: Perfectionists tend to believe their parents set very high goals for them.

Parental criticism: Perfectionists perceive that their parents are (or were) overly critical.

Doubting actions: Perfectionists doubt their ability to accomplish tasks.

Organisation: Perfectionists tend to emphasise order.

In a team environment we’ve experienced first-hand that the rigidity of perfectionism is difficult to work with.  The drive for the perfect answer doesn’t make space for the weird and wonderful world of collaboration.

What can you do to overcome the drawbacks to perfectionism?  As a starting point, we can take a leaf from Taibi Kahler’s book on drivers.  He identified ‘Be Perfect’ as an inherent driver type and offered these suggestions:

  • Encourage playfulness in your thinking process
  • Cultivate mindfulness when dealing with others
  • Practise accepting imperfection from others as well as yourself
  • Acknowledge the effort that’s put into meeting challenges
  • Invite feedback and embrace it

Perfectionism can be problematic because it can lead to obsessiveness, which in turn leads to a whole host of issues around attendance, performance, and morale.  For example; you’ll often see a perfectionist procrastinate because they’re afraid of failing before they start.

Or even worse, they may position themselves as a martyr. Certainly in a business context, the employees we regard as heroes, the ones who come in early, stay late, and solve every problem can actually mask inherent business issues.  The simple fact that heroic measures are required means at least some things are not working right.  So whether we call a person hero or martyr – we need to ask the question, what is really going on and what can we learn from that?

Read More
, ,

Identifying Your Drivers

What are Drivers?

If you found our download guide on Kahler’s Five Drivers interesting, you might also want to consider your personal drivers.  We’ve put together this simple questionnaire to help you identify which of the five driver types you naturally have a preference for.  Or more likely, which blend of drivers you have.

This is not a researched or validated questionnaire, more a bit of fun for you to consider your strongest drivers – and the pros and cons of each one.

Answer the following questions by indicating Yes, No or Occasionally next to the question, we’ll do some maths and give you your results.

Do you hide or control your feelings?
Do you do things (especially for others) that you don’t really want to?
Do you hate ‘giving up’ or ‘giving in’, always hoping that ‘this time it will work’?
Is it important for you to be RIGHT?
Are you fairly easily persuaded?
Do you dislike being different?
Do you hate to be interrupted?
Do you tend to compare yourself with others and feel inferior or superior accordingly?
Do you like to explain things in detail and precisely?
Do you tend to talk at the same time as others, or finish their sentences for them?
Do you have a tendency not to realise how tired, or hungry you feel, but instead ‘keep going’?
Do you have a tendency to be the rebel or the odd one out in a group?
Do you dislike conflict?
Do you find yourself going round in circles with a problem feeling stuck but unable to let go of it?
Would you describe yourself as ‘quick’ & find yourself getting impatient with others?
Do you prefer to do things on your own?
Do you feel discomforted (e.g. annoyed, irritated) by small messes or discrepancies?
Do you set unrealistic time limits?
Do you like to ‘get on with the job’ rather than talk about it?
Are you reluctant to ask for help?
Do you have a tendency to put yourself (or find yourself) in the position of being depended upon?
Do you set yourself high standards and then criticize yourself for failing to meet them?
Do you have a tendency to do a lot of things simultaneously?
Is it important for you to be LIKED?
Do you have a tendency to start things and not finish them?

 
Be Perfect
Be Perfect people draw energy from doing the ‘right’ things. We aim for perfection in everything, check carefully,
produce accurate work and set high standards. The drawback to this driver is sometimes we miss deadlines because
we are still checking our work. We tend to have a weak sense of priorities and insist everything is done perfectly.

Please Others
This working style means we are nice to have around because we are so understanding. We use intuition a lot and
will notice body language and other signals that others may overlook. The drawbacks to this are serious, we avoid
the slightest risk of upsetting someone. We may be so cautious with criticism that our information is ignored.
Hurry Up
People with Hurry Up styles like to do everything as quickly as they can, which means we get a lot done. We are
energised by having deadlines to meet, and always seem able to fit in extra tasks. However, give us time to spare
and we delay starting until the job becomes urgent. This can backfire because in our haste we make mistakes.
Be Strong
Be Strong individuals have the ability to stay calm in any circumstance. We are driven by the need to cope with
crises, difficult people, and will work steadily through any workload. However, our desire to have everything under
control means we can come across as aloof and may not always ask for help.
Try Hard
Try Hard people are enthusiastic, we get involved in lots of different activities, and tend to volunteer for things. We
are energised by having something new to try. But sometimes we turn small jobs into major projects because we
want to chase every possibility. We may even become bored with the detailed work that follows, even to the point
of leaving work undone so we can move on to a new, exciting activity.
Read More
, ,

Difficult Conversations Part 2

Preparing for the other person’s response…

One of the things that stops managers entering into difficult conversations, feedback or chats about performance is an anxiety over how the other person may respond.  What if they quit?  Cry?  Argue?  Shout?  Take it really badly?  Disagree and I can’t hold my own?  What if they say XYZ?

And so as a learning designer, facilitator or coach, we have the opportunity to help managers prepare for those eventualities – and for those they cannot even imagine.  The power here is in reducing the irrational fear.  Notice how our fear about something is usually worse than the reality of that bad thing happening.

For example, managers share stories about someone quitting and it being the best thing that ever happened for the team.  Other managers have experienced people crying and found that it really wasn’t that bad – you just deal with it, like anything else in life.

Sharing these stories and asking delegates to consider their own experiences of reality not being as bad as we fear, enables a more rational conversation.  What will you plan to do if the person cries?  Argues?  Threatens to quit?

Because the fact is that the question “what if he argues back?” is not generally explored and answered as a question.  It is used as a threatening statement to ourselves to say, “don’t bother starting the conversation, it may not end well.”  Actually helping managers work through those questions and realise they have answers, is extremely empowering.

Here are some classic responses we’ve heard managers come up with in small group work…

What if they cry?
Ask them if they want to take five minutes / go to the bathroom / get a tissue, then suggest we come back to the conversation when they feel ready.  Don’t let them off the hook though, make sure we come back to the conversation if it’s five minutes, hours or days later.
What if they argue back or disagree about the issue?
Stay calm and find out more about what it is they disagree with and maybe what they do agree with.  Ask questions like, “tell me more about what it is you think about this” and “help me understand, when you say you disagree, what do you mean?”
 
Rather than trying to convince the other person they’re wrong, work to understand how they think they’re right.  When we understand the other person’s thinking better, we can ask further questions like, “what impact do you think that has on the team?” or “how does that relate to the business priorities we’re working on?”
What if they threaten to quit?
Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  But we could find out what their concerns are that are making them want to quit.
 
What is it they want and can we realistically offer that?  One manager shared a story of a colleague who wanted to avoid all people management, so that worked fine, they found a technical specialist role for them and everyone was happy.  But if what the colleague wants is never to be challenged on their behaviour, then they probably won’t last long!
What if they say something I’m not prepared for?
This is arguably the most critical question, as it is the one that throws us the most.  One manager shared a story of a difficult conversation where a team member had ignored specific instructions in an email and gone against the manager’s requests multiple times.
 
The manager raised this as an issue, prepared for arguments about who was right or wrong and how things should be done, but the colleague simply said, “I never saw those emails.”  The manager was flabbergasted!  How could this person have missed that email every time?  Surely they were lying!  But what could the manager do?  Completely shocked by this statement, the manager had no idea what to say so said, “ok, well make sure you check emails from me in future,” and that was that.  Afterwards the manager was so upset, “why didn’t I say more, challenge them, ask them how they would make sure this did not happen in future?”
 
The key is to give yourself time to think in these moments, so many managers come up with a get-out clause like, “I think we need to explore this more but I need some time to think it through, let’s meet again tomorrow to discuss.”  Or if you think you can get there quicker, “ok I could do with a coffee, let’s take five minutes.”

Of course there are no right or wrong responses here, this is all about simply feeling prepared.  It is no good scripting out some feedback, to then feel completely unprepared for the unscripted response from the other person.  So encourage managers to have a few stock phrases and questions up their sleeves for these conversations.  The ones we hear that people find most useful are:

Can I just clarify, when you say, do I understand it right that you mean….?

Tell me more about that….. Help me understand….

So what do you really think?

What impact could that have on other people?

What would you do now if you were me?

Let’s take some time out to get some clear thinking, how about the same time tomorrow?

Read More
,

Difficult Conversations Part 1

Still the bugbear of L&D professionals the world over…

Why do our managers not give feedback?  Why do they not face upto those honest, tough or difficult conversations?  Whatever we call them, and many businesses have tried their share of variations, feedback and performance conversations are still a challenge for managers.

Here we look at why interventions to date may not have worked and share some top tips that are working well for us and our clients.

First, we need to understand what is holding people back from giving feedback.  Notice how most eLearning sessions on feedback or workshops covering the topic, dive into “how to give feedback.”  We all instinctively know some good practice ideas like be specific, tell them at the time etc, yet when it comes to it, we avoid the difficult conversation.  This means that simply teaching more “how to” tips is unlikely to help, as the fear of the other person’s reaction stops many managers from entering into the discussion.

We therefore find that the most effective feedback workshops start with What stops us from giving feedback?  This first question raises anxieties about how the other person will respond and concerns about others’ perceptions of us as managers.  Many managers will say something like, “I don’t want to be seen as a nag,” or “I don’t want them to quit,” or simply, “what if they don’t like me afterwards?”  There is power in getting these concerns out in the open, knowing that we’re not alone and then working through these concerns.

Then we can ask, how can we overcome those obstacles?  For some people this is about letting go of needing to be liked all the time, whilst for others it’s about acknowledging that it’s highly unlikely someone will immediately quit the first time they have a difficult conversation.  And if they did quit, would it really be such a bad thing?  Particularly given the fact that so many managers share stories of holding onto a so-called high performer who constantly upset the rest of the team, then one day that person quit and the whole team’s performance and morale sky-rocketed.

With all of this helpful thinking out in the open and managers realising it would be better for them to act than to not act, there is a shift in the room to, “ok, but how do I do it?”  It’s as though we have now earned the right to talk about the how-to practical tips, in the context of their real concerns and anxieties.

What do we need to do to have an effective conversation? 

We start by sharing stories of how difficult conversations have been derailed when any of the following aspects have been missing:

Awareness

Agreement

Action

In one example, a colleague was not aware of the impact they were having on the team by only ever making criticisms or highlighting concerns in meetings, so they did not respond to requests to be more positive.  In another example, a colleague was aware of the way they spoke at a hundred miles an hour during presentations, but they believed that this added to their energy and positive impact, so did not agree that anything needed to change.  In another, a colleague could see that the way they kept interrupting peers during the day was distracting and unhelpful following a difficult conversation with their manager, but there was no firm action agreed or review put in place, so nothing changed.

Everyone can share their own stories – they have seen this happen time and time again, when someone clearly disagrees that something is an issue, or a lack of review means behaviour has returned to normal.  And this really makes managers consider whether or not their colleagues are aware of the problem.  It’s so easy for us to fall into the trap of labelling people as lazy, rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless, without considering that the person may have no idea of the impact they are having.  And if they did know, they may well want to change.

So then the group comes up with ways to have conversations that ensure all three aspects are in place, followed by a review to check there has been progress.

We’ve given examples here of pretty basic stuff about people’s behaviour, but the same approach is equally effective for conversations about the need for more strategic thinking, for discussions about a lack of career progression, for questions over the leadership of a department and consultation over vision.

Because one of the main concerns managers have is how the other person will react, we then go on to explore how to prepare for that too.  We’ve put that into a separate article here.  Enjoy!

Read More