Friday, 14 March 2008

Should you do your management training with the actual team?

There are a number of factors to address within this question.

Firstly are we talking about a manager and the team of people reporting in to them, or are we referring to a group or team of managers? For the purposes of today's article I will assume that we are talking about a team of managers. The second consideration is about whether or not and how much the individuals managers see themselves as a team and how much they interact, cooperate and rely on each other to do their work effectively as opposed to operating in a largely independent and sometimes even competitive way. I am assuming that the management team members in question do need to work cooperatively together and that the success of one manager's department or function can be significantly influenced by another manager's team doing their work effectively. It does not matter at this stage of the discussion whether or not all of the managers in the management see the need for this cooperation or indeed that do actively support one another. In fact if some or all of the managers do not see that this cooperation and support is essential for them all to be successful then this in itself is a strong enough reason to run a management training or development event for all of the team together.
Clearly a strong influence on this decision is based on the need for the training event.
The following circumstances would suggest that you run a management team development event with the full team:-
- to introduce or induct new team members
- to agree and develop a new vision and strategies for the business
- to implement change strategies effectively
- to address key marketplace, financial problems or operational difficulties
- to help resolve tensions or fractured relationships between the team members or with the team leader.
There are of course other circumstances which would indicate that you should run your management training courses with mixed or cross-functional groups of managers and I will look at those in my next article.

When should you train your managers in cross-functional groups?

There are a number of circumstances when it is appropriate to train your managers in family groups which I described in my last article. Equally there are also other circumstances and factors which would lead you to organise your management training in mixed, cross-functional groups. These are the factors for you to consider:-
- the objectives and content of the programme eg how much is it aimed at one consistent message and theme that you want to get across consistently to all participants, regardless of functional specialism or level of responsibility and experience
- is it a specific skills programme eg presentation, negotiation skills where all of the participants are attending with this specific development need and could help and support each other
- is it a programme where you want managers with different backgrounds, experiences and responsibilities to share their experience, perspectives and ideas with each other
- are you aiming to increase cross-functional understanding and teamwork across different functions and departments and therefore by definition need mixed groups
- if it is a management skills programme about personal, leadership or management styles and it would inhibit participants to talk about their individual experiences and issues in front of peers who they work closely with ie where both openness and confidentiality is a key requirement of the course

All of these factors combined with the practicalities around availability, travel time and costs and getting an optimum and efficient number of participants need to weighed up when you decide whether to organise your management training in cross-functional or family groups.

When coaching someone how can you assess their personality?

Before answering this question we need to consider some other factors, for example, is personality an important factor, why would we need to know bout it, how can it be measured, what can it add to the coaching sessions?

1. Yes personality is often an important factor in coaching a person because it has an influence on a number of key aspects of a person such as their motives, their styles, their ways of responding, their ways of learning and most crucially their behaviors. It is also helpful to me as a coach to have some insight into a coachee's personality to help me to understand more about them as a whole person and to adjust my questions, style and challenge to them in a way that I judge to be most effective. It is also useful to set their personality alongside mine and to think about how my styles, personality and learned behaviors may need to be assessed and modified in order to bring out the best in both me and in the person that I am coaching.

2. Why do we need to know about it? Well there is no absolute rule in coaching that states that a coach must know and understand a personality in detail before they can start to coach them. But in my experience it is an important factor to understand about a person and therefore in most coaching situations I will make this assessment either intuitively or in a more scientific way.

3. How can personality be measured?
We can and do make assessments and judgments about a person intuitively, whether we like it or not. We infer things about them from what they say about themselves, from their language and use of it and from their body language and cues that we pick up using our senses.
We also get information about them from their goals and objectives for this coaching that they explain to us, compared to those set out by their sponsor and from the issues, barriers and potential actions and approaches that they explain to us.
We can also measure a personality more scientifically using one or more of the psychometric tests that are available on the market for BPS (British Psychological Society) Approved testers. The sorts of personality profiles that I sometimes use when coaching people are the following, depending upon the objectives and needs of the individual coachee:-
16pf, Myers Briggs, Team Management Systems Roles, Belbin Team roles, Schein's Career Anchors. I would only use any one or two of these profiles with the open agreement of the coachee and I would give, explain the reasons for its use and go through the details of this profile and its mechanics, advantages and limitations to the coachee.

4. So in summary the understanding of a coachee's personality has a number of benefit's for both the coach and coachee's point of view and very few disadvantages - providing that the coachee readily give their agreement to it, that it has a purpose linked to the coachee's goal and objectives and that appropriate confidentiality and professionalism is adopted with respect to the use of any psychometric profiles involved.

How important is note taking at a coaching session?

Taking notes of the key aspects raised at a coaching session is an important feature of the coaching service that I provide. This is because it provides a number of benefits mainly for the coachee such as:-
- a note of the key themes and issues discussed
- a list of the options that have been considered
- key actions to be taken by the coachee are highlighted
- they serve as a reminder to the coachee of what was important to them at their coaching session which often serves to reinforce their commitment to taking action
- it also reminds the coach of what was discussed at the last coaching session and helps us to prepare for each new session appropriately. The next area to consider is who should take these notes - the coach or coachee or both and whether or not it is appropriate to take notes whilst the session is in progress.
On the first point I feel that I should take the notes as the coach and then I commit to get them typed up and sent on to the coachee within 3 working days. Some of my coachees also keep their own notes - particularly of actions that they plan to take, which in my view is a very positive step towards them taking those actions. I still send them on my copy of the notes because they may read slightly differently and because the coachees really seem to value them. I have yet to encounter a coachee who didn't want to receive a copy of their notes!
However there are some potential drawbacks to taking notes during the coaching session. These include:-
The coach cannot be attending and listening properly to the coachee if he/she is also taking notes at the same time.

A coachee doesn’t want to spend the entire coaching session talking to the top of my head.

The Benefits

The notes produced from the session are often a very helpful reminder to the coachee of the content of the coaching session:

particularly of the actions and commitments made by the§ coachee
it brings back to them the sense and atmosphere of the§ session
it acts as a check list for them and a reminder for me§
§ it means that they are more likely to take ACTION and DO IT
they act§ as a basis for catching up at the next coaching session
they round§ off the process

BUT I don’t write them out when I am coaching every person:

some coachees (a small minority) don’t like it and find§ it off putting
some subjects require me to feel completely in tune§ with the coachee. I usually recognise this and put my pen down immediately and symbolically.
some coaching environments e.g. lunch/dinner make§ note taking

There are only 2 copies of the coaching notes – mine and theirs. I never send a copy on to anyone else. HOWEVER – I do always write up my coaching notes as soon as possible after the coaching session and send them back to the coachee within a few days of the session.

I send them by e-mail or “snail mail” to the coachee’s home or work – it is their choice from a speed, convenience and confidentiality point of view.

Coaching and Mentoring is there any difference?

These two terms are often used in the same sentence as if they are one and the same thing – but they are different processes and the experience and approach that you need have to be effective in either role are quite different as I shall go on to explain.

There are some similarities such as:-
- they are based on a 1 to 1 relationship between two people, one of whom is the subject and object of the process and the other of whom is the guide.
- they have broadly the same end result in mind – helping the subject to learn, gain satisfaction from their work and achievements and ultimately to perform at their best.
- these relationships usually have a time scale and dynamic that goes through the same upwards learning curve and eventually plateaus or declines in value – especially for mentoring where one of the long term success aims for a mentor may be to see their protégé move past them in terms of knowledge and expertise and performance.
- both coaches and mentors are drawing on the same set of inter-personal and communications skills to establish that committed relationship and focused discussions that will lead to the subject thinking and acting differently as a result.

There are also some key differences for example:-
- a coach does not have to be an expert in the subject area, job or knowledge field of the coachee, where as a mentor does.
- It is crucial for a mentor to have had experience in the organisation, industry or marketplace sector that their protégé is working in. This is less important for a coach and it is often helpful for the coach to be innocent and naïve about the organisation – which allows them to ask those idiot questions and not to feel hamstrung by what has gone on before.
- The mentor uses their previous experiences and knowledge to help guide their protégé by giving them examples and input from their background which can help them to move more quickly up the learning curve for their role. The coach is less likely to be focusing on their past experiences and more likely to have a predominant focus on their coachees experiences, problems and issues.
- The mentor may make important introductions to Institutions or to key people who he thinks could be a useful source of knowledge, expertise or sponsorship for their protégé. The coach is less likely to do this.

Is there therefore room for a person to have both a coach and mentor at the same time?
Yes I think that there is because each provides something different to the subject’s learning, development and performance.