Monday, 21 December 2009

Key lessons learned from Coaching.

As we approach the end of 2009 I have been reflecting on my coaching experiences throughout this past year. I have been busier than ever with my coaching work with Developing People this year, coaching 45 different people for an average of about 5 sessions each – a total of more than 200 individual sessions. Given this amount of focused coaching effort, there are some important themes and lessons that can be learned from this work.

Many of these coachees have come from the same organisations where I have been engaged to coach a number of managers from the same team – and quite often also their boss.

There has been a significant benefit to the coachees themselves, meaning it is not only organisations and individual managers who benefit from what individual coaching can offer. I have not lost any of these coachees during the middle of a series of coaching sessions and all of them have gone on to complete the committed number of sessions and nearly half of them have carried on beyond their original coaching plan.

I have also been regularly recommended and asked to coach 4 other people who are colleagues of some of the original coachees.

Here are some themes that this year’s coaching sessions have reinforced in my mind:

  • Confidentiality is absolutely crucial – especially when coaching people from the same team or in the same management reporting line. When professional links, relationships and other complexities are involved, it would be very easy to ‘put your foot in it’.
  • The relationship between coach and coachee is fundamental and it needs to be a supportive, non-judgemental, trusting one.
  • Using my intuition as the coach and knowing when to be truly authentic and honest with my feelings and thoughts about their situation is more likely to produce breakthrough thinking and actions that will really make a difference.
  • It is important to support each person that I am coaching- even if they get into difficulties with their sponsoring organisation. This has happened with two managers that I was asked to coach who were employed in an F.E. College but who were then asked to leave their employment under “compromise agreements”. Whilst it is not my role to give them advice about the merits or demerits of their situation or advice on how to negotiate the best deal with their organisation it was gratifying to know that they both wanted me to continue to coach them and to support them with their new career search outside their original organisation.
  • When we have surveyed our coachees and asked them what they would like me to do more of or do differently for them in their coaching sessions, the main thing that they ask me to do is to challenge them more. I am conscious of this and also aware of the need to strike the right balance of challenge and support for them, in order to maintain an appropriate level of openness and disclosure from them. My sense is that it will not be conducive to our coaching relationship if they feel that I am being too critical of them and constantly judging them. This is one of the criticisms some of them often level at their line managers!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

How ego can affect the success of coaching.

We all have our egos and they can and do have a big impact on how we conduct ourselves, our communications and our relationships. They also influence our attitudes and how we relate to both the outer world and to our inner world of thoughts and feelings.

As a consequence we also take our egos into any coaching relationships – both as the coach and as coachee.

The coaching subjects all have their own egos to work with and most of them, in my experience, fit in towards the middle of a normal distribution curve of attitudes and behaviours – neither with over inflated egos nor with over whelming anxiety and uncertainty. If there is any tendency towards the extremes then I sometimes encounter people who are some what uncertain and lacking in confidence.

In these situations part of my coaching work is about helping them to build their confidence to an appropriate level and to help them to deal with more assertive people and those who are difficult to work with. Sometimes difficulties exist for coachees with their line managers who may not understand them or who may even have their own swollen egos to deal with.

I have occasionally been asked to coach a person with a big ego and this has provided its own unique challenge and my response must vary from person to person. The positive aspect of a big ego is that the person is usually very interested in themselves and in their own success. The potential downside however is that sometimes this type of person wants a lot of ego stroking from their coach and they may not be very realistic or self-aware. Giving these people objectives and useful feedback is part of the challenge and so is the role of challenger.

Quite often they don’t like the idea of them having weaknesses or development areas to reflect and act upon. One way that I have found to get this aspect across to strong people is to talk about “over played” strengths becoming weaknesses and inhibiting performance. This approach can help them to accept the message and for the feedback to become acceptable and useful in practice.

In a small number of coaching assignments that I have taken on, it has become apparent to me and to the coachee that the realisations and changes required by this type of coaching is not consistent with their view of themselves and of their world. In such cases we have agreed to discontinue the work. The requirements of openness, looking inwards at oneself, admitting to vulnerabilities and taking the responsibility for producing and implementing an action plan that may include behaviour change, is sometimes a step too far for these people.

We must also consider our own egos as coaches. We cannot deny that we have them but we need to be able to put them to one side if we are to truly focus on the needs of our coachees. We are there to listen to, support and challenge them to work on their real issues and objectives – not to massage our own egos or self-importance. All too often in the arena of sport we can see the ego of the team's coach or “manager” being placed ahead of the needs and achievements of the team – particularly when success arrives!

One aspect of this coaching role, that I find particularly challenging is the use of experiences or any anecdotes from my past which I think might stimulate new thoughts for the coachee through my example. In sharing my experiences and vulnerabilities with them I need to check with myself that I am doing this for their benefit and not for my own. It may give them the confidence to deal with an important issue for them but that assessment should be made on a case by case basis.

Keeping in my mind that the success of anyone that I coach is their success rather than mine, is an important aspect to bear in mind.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Leadership Dilemma

Imagine the situation: Your organisation is currently struggling. Revenues are down, profits are down and if the current trend persists, the business may end up making a loss at the end of the year.

While putting the brakes on expenditure may be the only option the business has, depending on how this is approached can make a big difference to the motivation, commitment and engagement of managers and staff who have to implement it.

If you did not have to think too hard to imagine this situation, you may find it useful to read on...

Consider the following scenario:

Last year, your business invested in a leadership development programme for its middle and senior managers. The focus of the programme has been on developing the skills, capabilities and behaviours of the management cadre to lead and empower their staff more effectively to generate greater engagement and change the organisation’s culture.

The results of the programme have been tremendous. Key business measures have shown improvements and the culture of the organisation has changed to become more customer focused and proactive.

However, because of the economic climate the organisation has not been making the required profits and the leadership team decided to put an embargo on all unnecessary spend. The directors decided to take control over the purchasing of all “consumable” items such as stationary, printing inks etc and all managers have to get approval from a director before they can purchase anything.

What will be the impact of such an apparently ‘micromanagement’ approach? Managers will suddenly feel that they cannot be trusted to make the right decisions and staff become frustrated because they can’t get the tools they need to do their jobs properly.

The consequence of this is that in an instant all the good work that the organisation did in investing in the leadership development of their managers becomes undone. This is because the managers perceived a lack of congruence between what they had learned and were expected to do (i.e. develop trust, empower their staff etc) and the behaviour of the directors who are into command and control.

This issue is not about what the directors of the business were trying to achieve but how they went about it. Clearly action needs to be taken to control costs during difficult times, however by stripping managers of their decision making authority will simply alienate and demotivate them. So what advice can Developing People offer?

  • Managers need to know what’s expected of them e.g. to reduce costs.
  • Maintain your manager’s motivation and commitment with trust in their decision-making abilities.
  • Set realistic targets and budgets so managers feel empowered to deliver the new targets and budgets without draconian measures that WILL reduce morale.

If businesses approach the engagement of managers in this way, trust and performance is more likely to be increased despite the economic difficulty. If you act now, managers will be primed and ready for when the economic pressures ease and the organisation returns to growth.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The increasing interest by Directors in coaching

A recent survey has indicated that directors in more than 75% of the FTSE 100 companies are involved in some form of 1 to 1 coaching programme. Most of these programmes use coaches from outside the organisation because of their objectivity, ability to be both supportive and challenging and their focused coaching ability.

The amount of external coaching activity available has been increasingly rapidly, but how can we know that these coaches provide a value added service to help their coaching subjects, to perform more effectively in the jobs?

One worry is that this expansion of activity could debase coaching standards. Anyone can set themselves up as coach in the UK and charge hefty fees in a “profession” that has no formal regulatory body with one professional accreditation instituition. There is also the complication of the various different types of coaches who offer themselves for hire.
Some are closer to being mentors or expert business advisers or consultants. Others provide a more personal “life coaching” service which concentrates more on the non-work aspects of the coaches life and pressures and less on the subjects business issues.
There are also a number of coaches whose experience base comes from a competitive sports background and who focus very strongly on performance technique, achievement, data measurements and making quantifiable progress in specific business performance objectives. Some provide face to face coaching sessions – others do so over the telephone.

So how is a director, leader, manager or professional in an organisation able to find their way through this complex and dispersed coaching marketplace in order to find the right coach for them? What key questions should they ask themselves or any prospective coaches in order to establish who might be the right sort of coach for them?
The things that the subject should consider for themselves are these:-
  • Are their needs primarily in the business area, or in their non-work life or a balance of both?
  • Are they looking for solutions to specific business issues and do they do they need an industry or functional specialist – in which case you may need more of a business mentor or consultant.
  • Are you looking to be told the answers to your problems or are you seeking to find solutions to your own issues with some one else’s help. In the former case you may respond better to a directive coach/consultant but in the latter case you would be better off with a non-directive coach.
  • If you wish to be pushed and motivated to work harder to achieve your performance goals then you may enjoy working with a sports experienced coach.

Having answered these questions for yourself then you should look for 2 or 3 coaches with the sort of profile, experience and approach that suits your needs and ask them for their answers to these questions. You should ask for personal references to talk to who have been coached by these coaches and make your own assessment of the personalities, integrity, confidentiality and support and challenge approach that they have to offer you.

We at Developing People would also recommend that ask about their fees and for an estimate of how many coaching sessions you may need to undertake. If they say that you can achieve significant change and improvement in 1 or 2 sessions then this is not realistic and you should reject them. Alternatively if they expect you to sign up to more than 6 or 7 sessions right from the start before you have even got into a deep and meaningful discussion with them about your needs then this is excessive.

Remember that the choice of coach is yours – you must feel that you can be open and honest with them and be able to trust them. This relationship is all important to help ensure that coaching can be successful for you.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

How do you get middle managers engaged in a culture change programme?

Developing People work with the leadership teams in many organisations, most of which are wrestling with the need to change.

This drive for change can come from a variety of sources both internal and external. Internal drivers can be a new vision and strategies for the business, new service approaches or new products, the need to up-skill managers and staff, or the need to replace employees who have left or for management succession planning purposes. External drivers can derive from marketplace changes, new technology, increased competition, Globalisation, changes in Legislation or relevant Regulations and last but not least the effects of the recession on business trading and finances.

Regardless of what these drivers for change are, they are usually first understood and articulated by the top leadership team in the organisation. After all it is a key part of their role and responsibility to develop their vision for future and the strategies and action plans that will produce the desired change. However the top team cannot bring about these changes by themselves and they need to enlist the support and commitment of all employees in the organisation - starting with the middle managers below them.

Recognising this need is a key first step and then comes the challenge of getting the middle management team on board.

The sorts of stages that the top team need to take the middle management through are these.

  • Awareness of the need to change
  • self-awareness of where they stand and their role in this change process
  • an understanding of what, why, where, when and how things need to change
  • involvement in supporting, challenging and agreeing the core changes
  • commitment to playing their part in communicating and implementing these changes
  • drawing up the change plans and timetable
  • starting the journey of actioning and implementing these changes whilst bringing the rest of the employees and key stakeholders "on board".

This may all sound logical and straight forward but successfully implementing the change programme is far from being easy.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Developing a leadership team for business growth and performance.

Developing People were recently asked to help an established leadership team to assess and develop their management and leadership skills in order to help them step up to successfully take on the next stage of business growth.

The business is SE Electronics, a Global Distributor of high quality branded microphones and sound equipment. This UK based business has exclusive sourcing and distribution rights to market leading sound equipment. Manufacturing in China, SE Electronics is now broadening out its distribution network into the huge US, European and Far East markets.

The business was founded in 2002 and the senior leadership team comprises 3 young Directors, two of whom have been with the business right from the start. All three are passionate about music and have moved on from performing in bands and sound production to get deeply involved in the technical side of sound projection and production. They love the industry, they love the product and they are great friends. They have also been successful in growing the business to its current level, mainly through their passion, hard work and native intelligence but they recognise that this experience is probably not enough to ensure them success in achieving the business growth that they desire.

In approaching Developing People Ltd, SE Electronics were seeking help to achieve their aim of building their leadership and management skills and effectiveness as the executive team in order to achieve their business growth.
We did this through the process of:
  • assessing the strengths, weaknesses and personal development areas of the 3 Directors
  • reviewing and guiding them on any skill gaps, role, relationship and communication improvements.
In the early stages of this work, we interviewed each Director using a set of structured interview questions about their experience, background, motivations, approach and objectives for this work. This data was supplemented by completion of Psychometric Profiles such as 16pf and Myers Briggs should help them with their self-awareness and with their understanding of each others strengths, weaknesses and preferences.

The top team are keen to share this information with each other and to agree amongst themselves their roles and relationships in the business and the future vision, strategy, objectives and implementation plans to achieve their aim.

Further down the line the work we do with SE Electronics could also cover:
  • business vision, strategy and plans
  • implementation of this business strategy.
  • development of an effective organisation structure and culture for the business.
  • selection, development, motivation and building of an effective team and individuals to support business growth.
We have agreed measurement criteria with them, by which we jointly assessed the impact and value of the personal and team development work that we are doing and also use to monitor and guide the work as it progresses. If other new wants and needs emerge as we progress through each stage of this outline programme then we will make the necessary adjustments as they become clear.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Team Building and Development

At Developing People, our aim is to help teams to improve their productivity, effectiveness and performance by using a range of innovative, challenging and pragmatic team development interventions. One of the methods that we use to achieve this outcome is to host team building and development events. Recently, we ran a very successful development event for the UK’s leading recruitment expert, Manpower.

The business wanted to take its Lead Team (consisting of 50 managers) outside the ‘classroom and business environment’ and give them an outdoor and charity based challenge that would further enhance their team work and leadership behaviour.

How did we do this?
Developing People organised a 1 day event with the National Trust at their Hare Hill property. The purpose of the event was for the lead team to complete tasks that would develop their team skills such as co-operation and communication. By working together adhering to the core values of the Trust, the Manpower team were able to take from the day good memories, a strengthened team ethic and other transferable skills that they can use in their everyday tasks.
We made it a semi competitive event where 4 teams were tasked to complete a range of conservation as well as business related activities. To be successful, the teams had to work both at their own ‘individual’ team level as well as at the Lead Team level to achieve the overall objectives of the event.

Was the event successful?
Of course, even in spite of the vagaries of the British weather! The event was very well received and provided benefits to both Manpower as well as the National Trust.

The event was mutually beneficially for both parties. The Trust benefited from the Manpower manager’s hard work and determination and Manpower benefited from the news skills learned in beautiful surroundings. In our book, this is a resounding success. For example, the event:

• Improved cooperation, understanding and team work between Lead Team members.
• Built on what had already been achieved and provided a platform for further development.
• Completed valuable conservation work for the National Trust.
• Contributed towards Manpower’s corporate social responsibility objectives.

We work with a range of charities to deliver other types of team development events such as raising funds, undertaking renovation projects and providing memorable experiences for disadvantaged people.

Monday, 23 November 2009

What advice do I give to person who wants to become a coach? Part two

Clearly an aspiring coach needs to have the necessary communication and relationship skills required to be effective. These include obvious skills such as active listening, good observation, self-awareness, questioning, summarising, empathy and rapport building.

The role of an effective coach also requires some less obvious characteristics that I encourage an aspiring coach to consider such as:-

• An appropriate level of self-confidence
• Not needing to have an answer all of the time
• Suspending of judgement and the ability to let coachees go their own way
• The balance of support and encouragement
• Ability to handle and use emotionality
• Ability to be honest, clear and direct
• Understanding of complexity and organisational politics
• Ability to deal with the coachee’s “whole life”.
• Ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty
• Taking accurate notes whilst also actively listening

Being a coach can be a lonely and exposed place to be. You are usually face to face and alone with your coachee for up to 2 – 3 hours and there is no escape or obvious help at hand from anyone else. You are your own resource and you maker the best use of your skills, experience and personality. A coaching technique is important and helpful but it is only a guide to the flow of your coaching conversations. These attributes can only really be learned by experience and I explain this to potential coachees in order to help them to understand the reality that faces them as a coach. Not everyone is suited to doing this work and even fewer people are very good at it.

Going on a training course and practicing and learning with others is a good aid to understanding and getting started but it is not as important as getting the right experience and having access to an experienced coach to bounce any areas of difficulty off. Many of these training courses are based around telephone coaching which does have its value and place – but in my view it is only a supplement and nothing like the real thing – face to face sessions. If the person who has asked for my advice is still interested to pursue coaching after this explanation then they do so with my encouragement and I wish them every success with their learning. Hopefully they will progress forward with both eyes and ears open and with their one mouth mainly shut!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

What advice do I give to person who wants to become a coach? Part one

By Claire Loving

There has been a significant increase in the number of people who are offering themselves as coaches to people in both the business world and in life in general. Over time, the public has become aware of coaching as a means of support in jobs that come with a great deal of stress. Many more training courses for coaches being advertised for people to train to become coaches and therefore there is much more availability and choice for people who want to ‘be coached’ or as I would say ‘receive coaching’.

I have been coaching people working in businesses and other organisations for the past 18 years and I am often asked by people that I meet how I got started as a coach – usually because they are hoping to become a coach themselves and they are interested in any advice that I have to give them. I originally learned about coaching from a person called Ben Cannon who had originally been a tennis player and tennis coach but who took what he had learned in the sports environment on into business and applied many of the same techniques and approaches to help people in business to improve their satisfaction and performance. The style that I learned from him was a ‘non-directive’ approach rather than a ‘tell’ style and it was and still is best explained and understood for me in the excellent book “Coaching for Performance” written by John Whitmore, now Sir John Whitmore a British ex-motor racing driver.

His seminal book and the GROW model coaching technique that he describes in it, is still, in my view, the best text for an aspiring coach to start with. This brings me to another key point about becoming a coach – it is something that you learn – largely by experience – and not something than can solely be taught or acquired through a training course. The other book that I found to be very instructive for me as an aspiring coach was the “Inner Game” series of books written by Timothy Gallwey about sports such as tennis, golf etc. His approach to coaching was also a non-directive one and also had its roots in tennis coaching in the U S.

The key learning for me from this text was about the self-awareness and responsibility of the coaching subject – the coachee – for the doing of their job. It is their job and life – not yours as a coach, that is important and therefore your focus of attention should be on them and what they are thinking, feeling and experiencing rather than on you as the coach.

So when asked about how I would advice a person to find out about coaching I would direct them towards reading some of these basics texts which explain the philosophy, approach and some techniques for non-directive coaching. Clearly there is another much more directive style of coaching around that is best embodied in many professional football coaches (and in some other sports) which relies on the “tell” or “push” approach to coaching. This can and does work effectively in some spheres of human endeavour and with some performers but it relies on the concepts of power, authority, expertise, knowledge of the “right way” to do things and on the coach taking part of the responsibility of how and what to do away from the performer. In my experience this is not the best way to approach coaching in business because invariably the coachees know so much more about their business situation than I do as their coach and they also expect to treated as responsible adults and don’t want to be told by me what to do and how to do it – they see this quite rightly as their choice and responsibility.

Look out for part two of this post next week

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Understanding your team

There are many theories that attempt to identify the skills necessary to make a team operate at its optimum capacity. Generally, a team needs a mixture of personalities and skills to function effectively. Over the years, there have been a number of studies conducted and I would like to discuss with you the team building theory pioneered by Belbin in the early 1980’s.

Belbin observed that different people naturally undertook one of 8 different roles when working in a team. Charles Margerisson and Dick McCann continued on with the research and identified 8 key roles that they believed to be essential for high performance.

• Reporter Adviser - has a preference for gathering and reporting information for the team.
• Creator Innovator – the team experimenter and ideas person.
• Explorer Promoter – the team salesperson, who enjoys exploring and presenting opportunities.
• Assessor Developer – likes to assess and test ideas and approaches.
• Thruster Organizer – is the team organiser, the person that ‘makes things happen’.
• Concluder Producer – enjoys bringing tasks to a conclusion.
• Controller Inspector – prefers controlling and auditing work for the team.
• Upholder Maintainer – works hard to uphold team standards and systems.

More recently, T-Mobile commissioned Honey Langcaster-James to research workplace motivation and she came back with the following results.

Honey identified 8 different team roles (or typologies) during her research that she felt described the behaviour of most individuals when working in a team. She identified these roles as:

• Mother Hen – nurturing, approachable and empathic.
• Cool Dude – unfazed by things and has a calming influence.
• Realist – pragmatic, logical and able to see through spin.
• Geek – technically minded, quiet, good with detail
• Joker – sociable and witty.
• Cheerleader – enthusiastic and optimistic.
• Link – sociable and flighty, and believes it’s all about ‘who you know’.
• Innovator – creator of big ideas.

Whether you subscribe to either theory or not, it is easy to see that the two studies have some things in common. For example, all researchers agree that teams which contain people of the same ‘type’ will not be as successful as those which contain a mixture of personalities and skills. A team full of ‘ideas people’ may well come up with inspiring and creative ideas but will invariably fail because their focus will be on generating more fantastic ideas rather than selecting the best ones and seeing them through to completion.

While the most successful teams have a mix of people with different role preferences, the downside is that they may disagree due to a conflict in natures and the common goal is lost in office politics. Team development theories can therefore help identify personality and skills traits and help the team understand and appreciate their individual difference. Skilled management programmes can help cultivate these relationships and make them more effective and productive.

In today’s uncertain economic climate, any manager worth their salt will want the very best from their team. No one wants to be managing a group of individuals that are constantly competing and eroding each other’s morale and ultimately, performance. Competition in this sense is not healthy and should be discouraged. Whichever theories you believe suit your team and workplace most, they can play a valuable role in helping to enhance team motivation.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Customer Service in Education – “who is the Customer?”

Recently, Developing People have been involved with leadership and management initiatives in a number of F.E. colleges. Throughout our years of management training experience in this sector, this question has arisen the most: when it comes to customer service in education, who is the customer?

Surprisingly, there are four types of customer in education. They each have different requirements of the education system and add something different too.

1. Students as the customer
Schools and colleges exist for students. Without people willing to attend the institution, there is no school. The benefits students derive from their educational institution set them up for life and ultimately, if students do not leave suitably shaped and prepared for the real world after their education, it cannot be argued that they received a positive educational experience. As a result, the institution will receive a bad reputation and it has clearly failed its core customers which is its students ‘buying’ its product of education.

2. Staff as the customer
Anybody who has run a successful business will know that if the staff are not happy, disaster can ensue (remember the Royal Mail postal strikes?) Staff in educational institutions are internal customers, that is, the organisation seeks to keep them happy. By providing clear and structured management, staff in the education sector feel secure and focused towards the common goal which is a.) the good education of its students and b.) pleasing the next two groups of customers...

3. Parents and the community as the customer
Parents of students obviously have a stake in the outcome of the education provided by an institution. In state schools, the parent has paid their taxes which in turn pay for the school and so parents rightly expect good value for money, that is, the student leaves school well-prepared for the world of work. This also applies at FE and HE level where tuition fess might be paid.
The community surrounding the school is the customer too in that it may comprise heavily of students and their families but there are other individuals who may not have a remote interest in the school. The community becomes the customer in that the ‘product’ is the minimisation of potential disturbances caused by the day to day life of the school. For example, parent’s evenings, open days or popular sporting events may bring extra traffic to the community. By minimising disruption posed by official school events and by students in general, the community are happy as the ‘product’ sold is house value in the area is kept higher as being in the catchment area of a good school commands higher asking prices. Schools simply need to manage handling sensitive issues that may arise with care and understanding.

4. The government as the customer
All educational institutions are accountable to OFSTEAD as this is a government body set up to inspect schools standards and the ‘product’ it offers to students. The government is a customer in the sense that it has passed on the responsibility of providing the product of education to the school. Good customer service dictates that if a request is made, e.g. a change in curriculum, then it must be done according to policy with no undue comments passed and consistent co-operation.

As you can now see, balancing the needs of all four types of customer is a difficult process. The teaching and learning staff has a responsibility to deliver the education alongside administration and managerial staff who need to be focused on pleasing the other 3 types of customer I have just outlined. Developing People have extensive experience in this field and can help educational institutions to balance their customers in a way that allows the student to remain the focus of attention, yet satisfy the other customers.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Assessing the Potential You Need

For many businesses one of the biggest risks to their future success is having the right talent in place as and when key people leave the organisation.

While finding good people may be less difficult during a recession, the demand and competition for talent will increase over the next few years because of a number of factors:

  • The global economy will recover.
  • Companies are operating more and more on a global scale and can attract the best from around the world.
  • Changing demographics means that it is estimated that one in four of the working population is over 45.
  • A change in working culture and the choices people make mean that young people are more likely to move jobs.

All of this provides a number of challenges for businesses who wish to find and retain talent. At first glance it may appear easier to hire talent from the outside, to bring in “fresh blood” or someone with a “different perspective”, but is this really the right thing to do?

Certainly with competition increasing, this will become a more time consuming and expensive process. It has been estimated that it “costs” between 1-2 times the salary before a new middle management recruit becomes effective. In other words, if you hire a manager on £60,000 p.a., it could cost the company between £60,000 -£120,000 before that person starts to be effective. However, this money might be better invested (and less risky!) in identifying and developing “in house” talent.

However, what techniques are available to assess the capability and talent internally?

The first assessment that should be made is how an individual has performed previously. While previous performance is no guarantee of future success it is a good guide to how the individual is likely to perform in the future. However, there are also other factors that should be assessed such as:

  • Undertaking an assessment of an individual’s critical thinking, numerical and verbal reasoning will provide an indicator of their thinking capability and innate intelligence.
  • Psychometric profiling instruments can assess an individual’s personality traits, likely communication and leadership styles. How do these fit with what the business needs?
  • Giving an individual specific business or organisational problems to resolve will provide valuable assessments of their business acumen and problem solving skills.
  • 360 degree feedback tools are valuable for assessing an individual’s performance and behaviour in the workplace. This assessment will provide a broader view than one simply based on the line manager’s assessment.
  • Asking the individual to lead a challenging business improvement project that will take them out of their usual work experiences, will provide a valuable assessment about how they handle new and unfamiliar challenges.

Some of the above techniques can be blended with others (such as formal presentations) at an assessment/development centre. How each individual deals with such a pressurised and stressful situation will provide additional evidence of their future potential.

While the assessments described above will not guarantee the identification of those with the greatest potential, they will provide the business with vital information on which objective decisions can be based. As the marketplace for talent becomes even more competitive, it is vital that businesses meet this challenge and establish their own assessment and talent management programmes – after all you don’t have to scour the world for talent if the potential you need is right under your nose!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

What to do if it looks as if your coachee is never going to change?

The underlying purpose of coaching is for the coachee to learn how to think differently so that they can improve their life either personally or professionally. As a coach, you must find a way of raising their self-awareness and help to find ways of taking new actions to improve not only your coachee’s action but also enable them to move towards independence and self-sufficiency.

However, this process can be difficult for a person new to the world of coaching and it may take time for the coachee to recognise all the possibilities available to them. Yet, if a coachee is showing no signs of taking on board the information you wish to impart, it can be very difficult to continue with the coaching. As a coach you should be able to find a way to relate to your clients, no matter how frustrating it may be to meet resistance.

How can you reach out to your coachee?
  • It could be that your coachee is still not very aware of their potential. You need to eke out a positive response and you can do this by admitting to your coachee that the sessions are not working as you expected and devise a plan to go forward together. Hand control back over to them.
  • Could it be that there are external barriers stopping the coachee from progressing? They may not have originally been forthcoming with personal information that you need to be aware of, such as a sick relative, a complicated divorce or a medical complaint of their own. Coaching requires honesty on both of your parts and you need to adopt a holistic approach to helping a person improve professionally.
  • Are your goals the same? As a coach, you may wish to help an individual improve professionally in different ways but your coachee may just want someone to talk to, to get issues off their chest. Some people just want to talk and be listened to. Some people do find a sympathetic ear empowering as it reminds them that they are worth listening to.
  • Why has this person sought coaching? Some people truly want to improve their performance whereas other may simply begin coaching to please a superior. In a case like this, you may have to consider bringing the coaching relationship to an honest close as there is nothing you can do for them.
If you have tried for a significant period of time to engage with your coachee and find yourself getting nowhere, you need to be upfront with them. Realistically, you can only work with people who want your help. If the coachee is not willing to make coaching work for them, you need to assess whether or not they would benefit from you taking the time to persevere with their case.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Why is coaching often more effective than other forms of leadership or management development?

Businesses often are unaware of the benefits coaching can give to their employees and as a direct result, their profits. It is often suggested that coaching is more effective in improving an individual’s performance than a leadership or management development programme. This is a somewhat subjective statement and as a business, you know you cannot afford to take a chance in these difficult times, on companies offering services that have little apparent and tangible results.

So what are the practical differences between coaching and leadership or management development programmes?

Firstly the coaching process is 1 to 1 and the focus is 100% on the individual, where as leadership and management development programmes are invariably for groups. By focusing on one person at a time, there is an opportunity to address the issues the coachee may not wish to raise in a group setting. Also, the agenda and objectives for these group programmes are usually set in advance, meaning that it may not relate directly to the individual manager's specific developmental requirements. As the agenda for a coaching session is largely set by the coachee, the process becomes flexible and the results specifically tailored. On a leadership or management course, it is not easy to change the agenda and as the structure is more rigid, participants may leave with more questions than they arrived with.

When involved with coaching, the coachee may feel the call to action is stronger and more detailed than a participant of a leadership or management training course. The sessions where the action plans are often fewer and more general are clearly going to be less beneficial to those involved than action plans that are individually tailored and monitored by a coach.

A feature of coaching sessions is that notes will be taken, goals will be set at the end of every coaching session and managers will be asked by the coach if they have achieved their goals and how. Individuals are nurtured and are assessed to see if they need a different motivation technique. The ability to talk and act honestly, naturally and spontaneously is encouraged for a coachee whereas any displays of frustration, anger and emotion would be regarded as disruptive on a leadership or management training course. Managers should be encouraged to express their feelings in a constructive manner and this is generally more effective in one-on-one sessions.

There are of course, advantages for participants taking part in course-based activities, many people respond to group activity and create good networking opportunities, however, this is dependent on what you hope to get out of each method. Overall, I believe that subjects of coaching get more from their sessions purely through the specific advice offered to them. It has a powerful impact on their actions, performance but most of all, confidence in the subject’s own abilities and judgement.