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.