Friday, 26 August 2011

Should an Executive Coach make notes during a coaching session?

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

I have heard people say that a coach cannot be attending and listening properly to their coachee if they are also taking notes at the same time. Taking notes can be a distraction from being fully present with your client – you focus on writing rather than listening, and you can find yourself recording facts rather than the key themes. You may also miss some interesting non-verbal cues if you are concentrating on writing rather than your client. Taking notes can formalise and slow down the interaction, and this may not be helpful if you aim to develop rapport, and encourage responsiveness and spontaneity in the sessions. After all, a coachee doesn’t want to spend the entire coaching session talking to the top of your head!

There may also be an issue with the coachee being concerned about what is being written down, especially in a corporate scenario where they may have concerns about confidentiality. This may then lead to them holding back in the session rather than being fully honest about their thoughts and their situation, which ultimately undermines their relationship with you. For this reason, it is important that there are only two copies of the coaching notes – yours and your client’s. A copy should never be sent to anyone else. It is important to always write up any coaching notes as soon as possible after the coaching session and send them back to the coachee within a few days of the session. They should be sent by e-mail or post to the coachee’s home or work – it is their choice from a speed, convenience and confidentiality point of view.

Notes do provide an invaluable resource - particularly if you are coaching a client over a period of time. Without a record of the sessions, it is very difficult to trace the client's development, change, successes and achievements. A record of the actual language and images used by the client in different sessions can point to recurring issues, themes, perceptions and perspectives and the client's shifts over time. Notes of early sessions can also provide reminders of the bigger picture and initial aims identified by the client.

The benefits of taking notes during the session are that the notes 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 the coach
- 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

However it is not wise to write them out fully when coaching because:

- some coachees (a small minority) don’t like it and find it off putting
- some clients require the coach to feel completely in tune with them.
- some coaching environments eg. lunch / dinner make writing more difficult
- the coach can become overly responsible for identifying the significant points and developments in the session rather than the client. This can also move the ownership and power in evaluating the impact of the session from the client to the coach.

So in conclusion, I recommend that the coach takes brief notes during the coaching session which are completed straight afterwards, unless it is found that it gets in the way of the coaching relationship and conversation.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Driven to Distraction by Technology!

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People International

I read an article the other day by Carl Honore, journalist and author of "In Praise of Slowness" which claimed that the average office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message or other distraction. This is an odd position for us to be in, as the digital communications that were supposed to make our working lives run more smoothly are actually preventing us from getting critical tasks accomplished.

I guess it is a challenge of modern working life: email, Twitter feeds, instant messages and text messages come so thick and fast that it is hard to ignore them. Some of the information will be important — and that’s precisely the problem. Turn it all off and you might as well quit your job, but read it all and you become so distracted that it is a challenge to get anything else done. Things are made worse by BlackBerrys, iPhones and other smart devices that enable workers to stay in touch 24/7. A few years ago, a study undertaken for computing firm Hewlett Packard found that 62% of people even checked work messages at home or on holiday.

My own belief is that it businesses want to improve productivity, it is vital that managers help their staff to deal with these distractions and interruptions. For me personally, I have turned off the e-mail setting that delivers a note as soon as it is received, so I don’t know when emails are sent and cannot be distracted by them. Instead, I check my emails on a more planned basis - perhaps 4 or 5 times per day. While this approach may frustrate some who want an ‘immediate reply, it cuts the time down I spend on e-mails dramatically.

I take a similar approach with my mobile. There are times when I don’t want to be disturbed and so I turn it off, and pick up my messages later. In addition I have so far resisted the temptation to have a smart phone; I have no desire to be told that I have an email at 8 o’clock in the evening when I am relaxing or spending time with my family.

Hoverer, managing expectations is the key to the above. Too often people expect an ‘instant reply’ but in reality they don’t need it there and then. If their expectations are managed and they know that their email, text or phone message will be responded to, then a vast amount of time can be saved.

We all need some uninterrupted time to think, plan and complete our own work which we cannot do if we are constantly being interrupted. It is therefore vital that we all learn to manage digital communication and not to let it manage us!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Leadership in Times of Crisis

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

The London Riots began on Saturday 6th August 2011 with a handful of people who were angry at the death of a civilian, shot by a police bullet. I was saddened (and indeed frightened) to see that over the course of the next week, the riots grew to encompass the majority of London, as well as some of the other major cities in the UK, and the after-effects have left the whole of the country reeling with shock.

The Prime Minister and the Mayor of London cancelled their holidays to return to the city, and whilst they were never going to don riot gear and tackle the problem in that way, I felt it was vital that their leadership was visibly present. However, I found it thoroughly disappointing that their leadership constituted trying to tiptoe around and make everyone happy, rather than boldly marching in to solve the situation. Sometimes leaders need diplomacy – sometimes they need action. And the defining point of a good leader is that they know which approach to use in every situation they face.

No matter what the leadership challenge being faced, there are three things that remain a constant way to begin the process of getting the best out of a difficult situation.

The first thing is to lead your people rather than herding them. A son once tried to take on his mother’s usual role of getting their chickens into the hen house each night to keep them safe from foxes. Try as he might, he could not round them all up into the hen house, so the next evening he watched to see how his mother achieved the task. Instead of trying to round the chickens up, she walked among them, dropping handfuls of grain. Once the chickens started following the trail of grain, the mother was easily able to lead them inside the hen house, and they willingly followed.

The same principle applies to us as human beings – if we have trust in our leaders, and a reason to follow them, then it makes for a much easier process.

The second thing is to ensure that as a leader, you set realistic expectations. These expectations need to be high enough to challenge your people and push them to the best of their ability, but it is also very important that they are set realistically enough to be achievable, or there is a risk of damage to morale, and an air of “can’t be bothered to try any more” can set in.

The third thing is to remember that as a leader, you cannot be all things to all people. You cannot be the friend, the colleague, the sympathetic ear, the supporter, the inspiration, the motivation and the firm kick-up-the-behind all at the same time. In pleasing some people you are going to end up offending others, and leadership is about having the courage to believe in your choice of actions, and to see them through to the very end. My boss is a good colleague and a friend. I can talk to him about anything in or out of the office, and he is a wonderful listener – however, I am in no doubt that if I ever drop the ball on anything, then I get a swift sharp reminder of exactly who is the boss around here!

Finally, those in leadership should always remember this – people will not remember what you say to them. People will not even remember what you do. But people will always remember how you made them feel. Therefore, a good starting point for leadership is to regularly ask yourself “How do I want my leaders to make *me* feel?”

Monday, 8 August 2011

Top Networking Tips

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People

In the current tough economic climate, I believe that networking is probably an even more important marketing tool than it has ever been before. The wider your network, the more likely you will have contacts in businesses and organisations that are less affected by the general economic slow-down. At the end of the day, people have always bought “people” people. We all like to know who we are dealing with, what they are like, how they can help us and whether we trust them.

However, just networking face to face is not enough. In today’s technological times, it is also important to build your network of people via social and business networking sites.

Here are some tips that I use and you can too to improve your on line presence and build your network.

1. Don’t mix business and pleasure. Be careful about the way you use your business networking sites (for example, LinkedIn) as opposed to the way you use your social networking sites (for example, Facebook). If possible, keep business and pleasure completely separate online – don’t invite professional contacts to link with you on social networking sites, and vice versa. The last thing you want is your professional contacts reading about how you get hammered at the weekend, or that you had to take a sick cat to the vets!!

2. Take the time to look up old contacts. By adding just one contact to your online network, you will often gain access to hundreds more people who are interested in a similar vein of work, or who have professional skills that may be useful to you. Take the time and trouble to look up people you haven’t contacted in a while, and make use not only of their skills, but also of the skills of the people they network with.

3. Be careful how you come across. Remember that the written word does not have the advantage of body language to emphasise its true meaning. Words can easily be misunderstood across a computer screen, so if in doubt, leave it out!

4. Think what your legacy will be. Where as the spoken word is gone the moment it has been said, the written word has a much more lasting legacy. Never type anything out in temper, as it may be difficult to retract it, by which point the damage is already done. Be polite, courteous and professional at all times.

5. Beware of addiction! Networking sites can be incredibly time-consuming. Whilst they are a very important and useful resource, stay aware of how much time you spend using them, and don’t let this become proportionally imbalanced to the amount of work you generate from networking in this way.