Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Management Training Can Help Staff have Freedom They Need to Perform.

Trusting your staff to do what they are good at is key to building a successful organisation, but sadly too often managers fail to recognise the significance of this.

Modern Management as well as modern life seems to be one of control. It is vital that budgets are hit, performance targets achieved, and often at the expense of freedom and creativity. That is not to say that these things are unimportant, because, clearly they are important, but what a manager should never do is over control their staffs work.

Humans are interesting animals. We generally respond to stimuli from others in the same manner in which the stimuli are presented. In other words, if you smile at someone, they will usually smile back, if you scowl, then don’t be surprised if they return something similar!

The point of this is that the more a manager controls their staff’s work, the more they will behave in a way that necessitates even more control. This becomes a vicious circle with the Manager exerting more and more control, but also complaining that their employees don’t take any responsibility or show any initiative.

To break the cycle, Managers need to understand the impact their behaviour has on others. Management Training can help because it teaches Managers techniques to empower their staff, as well as helping them overcome their fears about handing over ‘control’ to their staff.

Management Training can help Managers to:

Set out the desired results they want from their staff (in terms of what and not how).

  • Identify guidelines, policies, principles, and procedures considered essential to get the desired results.
  • Set out the necessary resources e.g. financial, human, or technical resources to achieve the results.
  • Hold their staff accountable – this isn’t about control but being clear about how results/performance will be measured and evaluated, and how progress reports and accountability sessions held.

There can be real benefits from investing in Management Training in this way. Not only will Managers end up giving their staff the freedom to get on with the job, but they will also find that they have more time to think and do their own job. In this way, the Manager, staff and ultimately the whole organisation benefits from the Management Training received.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Good Boss Vs Bad Boss

What is the difference between a good boss and a bad boss? Anyone who has experience of working for both might describe a good boss as someone who is:

· Supportive
· Flexible
· Empowering
· Empathic
· Inspirational
· Visionary
· Challenging.

Where as they might describe the worst boss that they have ever worked for as someone who:

· Talks but doesn’t listen
· Commands and controls
· Divides and conquers
· Plays at politics
· Treats you as a subordinate and not an equal
· Believes they know everything and you know nothing.

In other words good bosses earn your trust. They do what they say they will; they demonstrate their competence and show you that they care. A poor boss might know some of the latest theories, and say the ‘right words’, but they loose trust because their behaviour is incongruent with what they say.

These types of ‘fake’ managers have been parodied in many comedy programmes from Faulty Towers through to The Office, and most people can spot them a mile off. But why do some managers behave as if they were David Brent? There are many reasons for this: for a few it’s their own ego, for some it’s a lack of appropriate role models and for others it’s a lack of formal Management Training. However, it is often the latter that is the main cause - an individual is promoted into a management role but is not given the right support, or Management Training to fulfil their role adequately.

In these circumstances the newly promoted Manager tends to do what he or she knows best, and that is their old job. They therefore remain doers, focussed on the task on not on the people that should be delivering it.

It is essential therefore that newly appointed Managers and Team Leaders are given the appropriate Management Training to give them every possible chance of success. The training should help them to understand the importance of and to develop the ‘right’ behaviours such as:

  • Integrity – Demonstrating a conscience and sound ethics.
  • Confidence – The appropriate self awareness and display of self belief.
  • Influence – The ability to encourage others to follow, to lead by example as well as by persuasion.
  • Motivation - Ability to get others to want to do the things that need to be done
  • Challenge - Not accepting the status quo. Taking on the difficult things, and encouraging others to do so.
  • Authenticity - Acting naturally, being true to oneself and ones beliefs.
  • Communication -. Ability to listen and understand others. Ability to be understood by others both, verbally & in writing.
  • Collaboration – Working effectively with other people, their team, peers and boss.
  • Flexibility - Adjusting and adapting to changing circumstances. Learning from mistakes as well as successes.
  • Personal growth - Learning, developing themselves and others.

Given the right type of support and Management Training, newly appointed Managers will be able to develop the skills and behaviours necessary to lead and motivate their staff appropriately.

Monday, 16 March 2009

How easy is it to learn to be a coach?

“If it is that easy to understand and use the C.O.A.C.H. technique and model in a two day coaching course - how come it takes a number of years and a load of coaching experience for me to become an effective coach?”

The answer to this is both simple and also complicated.

Yes you can understand what coaching is and is not about, examine the skills required, learn and practice the C.O.A.C.H. model and be ready to apply it for real within the relatively short time of a focussed training course. However you need to also consider that the example coaching practice experience that you get on the course by coaching a fellow participant and peer is not quite the “real” life coaching experience that you may see it as.
This is for these reasons:-

the peer that course participants are coaching is likely to be in the same mental state of preparedness, openness and motivation to learn about coaching as you are.

They have also been listening to, thinking about and learning about the subtleties of coaching in the same environment, time and space that you have

They are tuned in to coaching just like you – they are also just about to go through a reciprocal coaching session with you but in reversed roles

They are not about to give you a hard time, or not quite understand what you are getting at, or to feel significant mistrust of you (unless they have good reason to do so.)

In short, these coaching practice sessions are slightly unreal, run with a “trustee prisoner” who is trying to help you to learn and experience the COACH technique and questioning sequence as well and as quickly possible. It is in their direct interest to help you through the coaching process and for you to reciprocate.

So in addition to any training course or theoretical reading and preparation about coaching, to become an effective coach you also need the guided experience of coaching a range of different coaching subjects in different organisations. You need to do this in order to get a feel for the range of individual differences that exist and to start to develop your own individual style and approach to coaching - but within an overall proven technique and approach.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Coaching, Counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (C.B.T.)

The UK Government has recently allocated significant funding and resource to train and develop CBT professionals to help people with low level mental health disorders. It has been the driving force behind the new IAPT initiative (improving access to psychological therapies) being implemented for local communities, to help people suffering from common mental health problems - anxiety and depression being the most prevalent. This form of talking therapy is different from counselling, which goes back to the past and helps a person to uncover the reasons why and any route cause of their difficulties.

Counsellors explore difficulties that the client is having, the distress they may be experiencing or their dissatisfaction with life. By listening attentively and patiently, the counsellor can begin to perceive the difficulties from the client’s point of view with the aim of helping the client to see things more clearly, possibly from a different perspective.

In a counselling session the client can explore various aspects of their life and their feelings, talking about them freely and openly in a way that is rarely possible with friends or family. Their bottled up feelings, such as anger anxiety, grief and embarrassment can become very intense and counselling offers an opportunity to explore them with the possibility of making them easier to understand.

As an alternative approach, CBT attempts to highlight maladaptive thoughts and behaviours and replace them with more effective and adaptive ones. The therapy is very problem focused and looks at the relationships between people’s cognitions, emotions, physiological responses and behaviour. Focusing on one of these areas can have a significant knock on effect on the other areas. CBT aims to make the client their own therapist, assuming that the client is the expert in their own problems and life experiences. CBT is a “here and now” approach which concentrates on helping the subject understand the realities of how they feel right now in various situations and to think about what they can do about this in future to improve their life experiences and mental well being.

It helps them to set and achieve short, medium and long term goals and develop skills and strategies of their own for the future if the problem arises again. To the extent that it focuses the subject on the here and now, on the options for future action and on the personal responsibility to do something different, it is a similar approach to coaching. What is different from coaching is that often the situation and the sort of problems and symptoms that a CBT client is faced with, tend to be more marked and unusual than the situations faced by most coaching subjects wrestling with the day to day, work related pressures encountered by people in reasonably successful employment.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Coaching for teams.

When I have been asked to coach a number of people from the same team the question has arisen about whether and when to work with them as a group as opposed to working with them as individuals. The focus of my coaching work has always been centred around working 1 to 1 with individuals, in order to concentrate on them, their issues and agenda without the distraction or complication of other people being involved. This also applies to the responsibility of the coachee to focus on themselves and their own agenda, issues and objectives rather than this attention being diffused or diluted by other people being involved. This 1 to 1 relationship and these coaching conversations also acts to protect the coachee’s confidentiality and allows them to talk more freely and openly than would otherwise be possible. It does not guarantee confidentiality however – this is still down to the integrity and actions of the coach!

However over the years I have often been involved in executive coaching a number of individuals from the same team, often helping them to achieve a shared team goal and in these circumstances I feel that it is appropriate to bring them all together at key stages of this work. I do this to help them both as individuals and as a team to achieve their overall team goal and to add value to the individual 1 to 1 coaching process. The sort of team goals that I refer to could be about improving team understanding, roles, responsibilities, efficiency and effectiveness, or improving communication and relationships. With one recent coaching assignment I have been coaching eight managers in an engineering team with the overall goal of improving the culture and performance of their business. In this case I have a 1 to 1 coaching session with each person each month, focusing on their role, issues and agenda and I have held two group sessions with them as follows:-
An introductory session where I brief all of the potential coachees together in one group about the approach that I plan to take to their coaching, the process that we will be going through and I describe the COACH model that I am using. This also provides all of us with the opportunity to understand the shared goals for the team and to discuss how these individual coaching sessions can contribute towards this goal achievement. It also provides the opportunity to talk about the broader scope of this coaching and what else it can potentially offer to the coachee in exploring and working on their own personal agenda. If the line manager, team leader and sponsor of this coaching work is present, which I regard as essential, then it gives us all the opportunity to discuss and explain the confidentiality required and for this to be aired clearly and explicitly with all participants.

The second group coaching session that have then held has been approximately half way through this 9 month coaching assignment when the coachees have been fully immersed in the coaching sessions and have also made some progress in taking their actions to improve culture and performance. This has given us all the chance to check on the teams progress towards its goal, to remind participants about any key learning points that are important and to encourage them to share their learning, insights and any questions or issues about the overall process with each other.

Towards the end of this assignment I plan to hold a further group session to check on the overall success of the work and to help the participants to make the transition from coachee and learner to independent and effective performer. I sometimes do this by encouraging the team members to peer coach each other and to have one or two practice sessions to experience this.

The other situation where it could be important and beneficial to hold a group coaching session would be when something is going wrong with the overall project process or relationships or where something radical has changed in the scope, environment or goal for the work. In this circumstance it could be very helpful to get a clear understanding for everyone about the changing reality and to gain shared commitment from individuals to play their part in working to improve things.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Who should sponsor coaching in an organisation?

It should be helpful to the coachee, the coach and the Organisation for there to be someone inside the Organisation who cares about the coachee benefiting from the coaching process. Clearly the coachee must be committed and motivated to achieve a positive and effective outcome for themselves or the whole process will not be worthwhile. In most coaching relationships this is already the case but in some others it is not. In some coaching assignments that I have been involved in the coachee is their own sponsor and this has usually worked very well. These have usually been chief executives, directors or owner managers of their businesses who have perceived the need, owned the budget to finance the sessions and found me as the coach that they have wanted to work with. They have usually been committed to the COACH’ing process and have their own self generated goals and objectives that they have worked on with me. The only disadvantage of this dual role is that they may not have a good personal monitoring system and the objectivity provided by someone else in the Organisation outside our coaching relationship who cares about their learning progress and performance as it relates to the coaching work. In these coaching relationships it puts more emphasis on me as the coach to look out for indicators that demonstrate whether the coachee really is learning and acting, to encourage them to reflect on their progress and to look for feedback from other sources eg their Board or their marketplace. I also need to be careful not to make these coaching relationships too friendly and comfortable or to collude with them and become overly sympathetic.

The role of the sponsor in these coaching relationships is to understand about the coachee and their circumstances, to see what the potential learning and development outcomes are for them that would benefit the organisation and to have a view about how and why coaching would be an appropriate solution for them. It also helps if they have a budget to fund the coaching, care about the coachee achieving a positive outcome and bother to take an appropriate interest in the process as it progresses. They often help by providing objective measurement indicators to demonstrate progress and performance – especially if the coachee understands and buys in to them!

Where the sponsor sometimes plays an unhelpful role in this coaching process is when they think that they can use a coach to get the coachee to do or to be something covertly that they have not openly explained to the coachee. This places the coach in the role of attempting to manipulate the coachee into a way of thinking or acting that they are not aware of or committed to. If you believe that this is the sponsor’s agenda in the early stages of the briefing process then it is your responsibility to bring these objectives out onto the surface and to check with the coachee whether or not they understand, agree with and want to work to achieve the sponsor’s objectives.