Archive for the ‘Topic – Performance Improvement’ Category

Building the Perfect Vision

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In my previous post, I outlined the components of a good quality Vision, together with examples of good and not so good offerings. In this post I will explain how to create a meaningful Vision.

For a Vision to be effective, not only does it need to meet the suggested criteria listed in the previous post, it also needs to be owned by the company or departmental staff, and both understood and valued by the customer base. The following process will enable you to achieve all this.

  1. Brainstorm or board-blast words and short phrases that describe what your organisation or department is to be about. This activity can be undertaken both internally and with customers, although the sessions should be run separately.
  2. Having undertaken this with one or more groups, look at all the words and phrases you have generated. You will see some themes and overlaps. Some words will have similar meanings. Group the words and phrases together where possible – using one colour for customer comments and another colour for staff comments.  This will give you an indication of which themes are numerically most important to the people you have consulted with, together with a check of the weighting from each of the two groups.
  3. Now prioritise your themes. Which are shared by both staff and customers? As the leader of the company or Department, which ones meet with your long term view? Which are most important to the success of your venture?
  4. Within each theme, is there a word that encapsulates, as far as possible, what the theme is about? If so, make a note of it. If not, is there a two-word phrase that sums it up? This step of the process is all about simplifying the theme and looking to take it forward as succinctly yet as accurately as possible.  You will never fit all the comments people have made into a sentence of a few words – so you will have to be prepared to accept inclusion by implication – and this is what you should be seeking to achieve with this step.
  5. Put your prioritised words together in a phrase. As I have mentioned previously, the phrase needs to be memorable, and as many people as possible need to be able to understand how their contribution has helped form and been included within the sentence.

If you get to this point, well done! It isn’t easy to get to this position, and it is time consuming – but it is well worthwhile.

The last time that I undertook this process was when I was leading a large Learning and Development function within an organisation. The Vision that I settled on was “Partners in Developing Performance”. This reflected the requirement to work with other parts of the organisation in an Adult and objective manner, together with the recognition that we existed to develop people, and that our Department needed to make a positive impact on organisational performance.

I found it very helpful in articulating what we were all about, and ensuring that all our activities fitted with this Vision or value. The most pleasing impact was when one of the trainers – on his own initiative – had delegate desk name plates (i.e. a folded card where the delegate wrote their name as a part of their introduction) printed with the Vision on. Proof that it was owned and valued by staff!

Furthermore, due to its positive impact, the HR Department adopted an amended version of it – “Partners in Managing our People”– for their own use.

So if it can be so effective, why don’t more organisations and departments do it? There are many potential reasons – here are some of them:

  • Looking for instant results – if that’s what you want, you probably will not invest the time in a Vision
  • Bureaucratic – it can be viewed as such where people don’t understand its value
  • Fear or embarrassment – it can be seen as a bit different if people haven’t been involved in such a process before
  • Inadequacy – some people tell themselves that they couldn’t lead such a process. Remember, there are facilitators who would be able to assist you with the process
  • Fatigue – there will be many other things on your plate, and it can be an easy one to push off the side.

But try it – clear these potential blockages and set out your Vision.  Be clear on where you and your team are going.

Once you have your Vision, you can develop your Mission – which will be your over-arching objective or overall aim. This could be your objective for where you will be in 5 years’ time. You can then work backwards setting objectives as to what needs to be in place or happen to get you to that point. Your path will have clarity for your staff and stakeholders.

Which takes me back to where this all started – the writing of a Strategy. The Vision can make this easier, and in my next post I will outline a template for creating a meaningful Learning and Development Strategy.

Paul

I have a Vision – do you?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Recently I have received a surge in emails requesting assistance on writing Learning and Development Strategies. It seems like everyone is at it. It encourages me that so many people are keen to define their strategic goals, however, it does also concern me that often people may be doing it to tick a box – and the document is created, and then forgotten about.  For a strategy to work, it needs to become a living document, to move from the 2-dimensional to the 3-dimensional.

I believe that there is a key step that should take place before writing the strategy – a step that can make the difference between the resulting product being a living document and a paper exercise. But very few people or organisations undertake it.

It’s the creation of a Vision. The creation of a Vision can conjure up ideas, enable ownership of a shared dream of the future, motivate people and focus everyone’s thinking.  It can be undertaken by whole organisations, or key departments within organisations.

What is your company or Department’s Vision? If it has one, can you remember it? Do you have ownership of it? Does it motivate you?

Think of some of the Visions that other organisations have.  Two of the best ones that I am aware of are John Lewis’ “Never Knowingly Undersold” and Ikea’s “Affordable solutions for better living”. So what makes these so good?

Well, a Vision needs to be:

  • Achievable
  • Communicable
  • Memorable
  • Sustainable
  • Probably not longer than 7 words
  • Use terms that everyone can recognise, relate to
    and remember
  • Describe what you see
  • Inspirational

And it should avoid being:

  • An intention
  • Like an objective
  • Bureaucratic
  • Committee-speak
  • Measurable

Both my previous examples fit with these requirements, as does my personal favourite – FedEx’s “The world on time”.  Those four words give such clarity as to what FedEx wants to be, yet so simply and memorably.

But not all are this good. Nike’s, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”, and Amazon’s, “To be earth’s most customer centric company”, are reasonable, but the use of the word ‘To’ at the start making them sound too much like objectives.

Moving down my leader board, we arrive at Virgin Atlantic’s, “The success of our three year strategy requires us to build on these foundations by focusing on the business and leisure markets and driving efficiency and effectiveness”. Memorable? Inspirational? I don’t think so.

And, in my opinion, the worst of all belongs to Heinz. Their 73-word offering is, “Our Vision, quite simply, is to be ‘The world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.’ Being the premier food company does not mean being the biggest but it does mean being the best in terms of consumer value, customer service, employee talent, and consistent and predictable growth. We are well on our way to realizing this Vision but there is more we must do to fully achieve it.”

If they had left it as the ‘quite simply’ part, then it would be good – but someone felt the need to, “Yes, but …” it, and the moment was lost. And with it went any inspirational, communicable or motivational qualities it may have had. But perhaps it’s more difficult when you need to include 57 varieties!

If your company or Department has a Vision, how good do you think it is? If it doesn’t have a Vision, would you benefit from having one? In my next post I will give suggestions as to how to create a FedEx quality Vision.

Paul

Perez Needed Positive Messages

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

I have huge respect for racing drivers. They demonstrate a level of focus that can be found in few other sports people. A Formula 1 driver drives each corner almost inch perfect, time after time, and their speed has to be absolutely on the button. One mistake and they are finished for that race. This is so different from almost every other sport – in team sports, there is time to rectify errors – the game doesn’t end as the first point is scored or goal is registered.  In individual sports, the tennis player can serve again or play another point, and the golfer has 18 holes (sometimes 72) if they mess one up.

And so I was watching the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend – which was made more eventful by rain. As it drew to its conclusion, the Mexican Sergio “Checo” Perez driving for Sauber – usually one of the less competitive teams – was in second position, and appeared to have the chance to win the race. He gradually reduced the distance between himself and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Finally, he was within a second of it with half a dozen laps to go. The chance was there.

Then he received a message over his radio from his pit crew. “Checo be careful, we need this position, be careful”. They needed the position because points bring in cash in Formula 1, and perhaps because this was the nearest that Peter Sauber, the team principal, had been to victory in almost 20 years of Formula 1. But ‘be careful’? And twice in the same sentence?  Checo had contended with torrential rain whilst driving at 150mph and with visibility down to a few yards for the first part of the race. Now with a relatively clear track and dry conditions he is told to “be careful”!

Almost as soon as he had received the message, he ran wide off the track, lost several seconds and that was the end of his challenge for first place. He did manage to regain control, and so finished in second place, but what could have been?

And more importantly, was the loss of control the result of being told to “be careful”?

This focussing of people’s minds on the potential pitfalls rather than on their achievements is something I come across on an almost daily basis in workplaces. I saw a sign recently on some stairs which read, “Do not spill your drink – this causes a slip hazard”. I wondered which members of staff in particular attempted or wanted to spill their drinks on the stairs. And when a drink is spilt, it appears that you don’t need to clean it up! Perhaps a better sign could have been “If you spill liquids, clean up to avoid slips – thanks” – same amount of words, but perhaps a different focus for the message – and a different message?

I also hear it a lot where children are involved – and this is the most concerning issue for me. “Don’t spill your drink”, “Be careful with your plate”, “Don’t fall over”, “Make sure you don’t fall off the climbing frame”, and so they go on. The vast majority of children have no intention of doing any of these things – they are probably already concentrating on achieving (or perhaps not failing) before hearing these ‘words of wisdom’, so what help are they? Or what hindrance are they?

“Well done for carrying that full cup”, “You carried that plate beautifully”, and “You’ve done really well getting to the top of that climbing frame” could be so much more effective. The child will grow up looking at the world in a more positive way, and they will have more self-belief.

And as they move into the work environment, perhaps we would then see fewer notices like the one above – and Checo and Peter Sauber may have won their first Grand Prix.

Paul

The Ten Heads of Ineffective Listeners

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Last week I was delivering a session on Achieving Results through Effective Performance Management. At the conclusion of the day, I asked the delegates to tell me what had been most impactive for them and what they would be implementing in the workplace as soon as practicable. Two of them both talked about the relatively short section we had covered on blocks to effective listening.

Then today I saw a Tweet from an acquaintance which said, “Someone told me once that to deal with a complaint well, you have to open your ears ten times as much as your mouth – they were so right!”.

Consequently, I decide to blog about the Ten Heads of Ineffective Listeners. They are (in alphabetical order):

The Adviser – The Adviser is a problem solver, and is eager to provide suggestions and what they perceive to be help. In Transactional Analysis (TA) terms, this person operates strongly from the Parent ego state. Sometimes they only have to hear a few sentences and they know what the solution is for the person. Sadly, they don’t realise that a solution from their own experiences and viewpoints is unlikely to work for the other person.

The Comparer – As the name suggests, they love making comparisons. They compare what they hear to their own experiences, and compare themselves to the person.

The Derailer – This person suddenly highjacks the conversation – possibly due to boredom or because they are uncomfortable with a topic – often by either changing the subject or making a joke.

The Dreamer – This person hears something that triggers a memory or association in their mind and they drift off so that they are, at best, only partially listening to what the other person says.

The Filterer – Our Filterer listens to some things and not to others. They pay attention to what has caught their attention, what they find interesting or surprising, or the parts that support their views or opinions.

The Judger – This person judges or pre-judges either the person or their reactions from a values perspective, rather than listening to all the information and coming to a logical conclusion based on all the facts. In TA terms, they again operate primarily from the Parent ego state as opposed to the Adult ego state.

The Mind Reader – The Mind Reader doesn’t pay much attention to what a person says because they don’t need to (or so they think). They make assumptions, or guess at what is coming next or going on in the other person’s head. The Mind Reader excels at displaying little empathy.

The Placater – The Placater wants (or needs?) to be nice, pleasant and supportive. They want people to like them so the Placater agrees with almost everything the person says and does not make challenges at the appropriate moments. In TA terms, they are usually operating from their Adapted Child or Nurturing Parent ego states.

The Rehearser – What shall I say next? How shall I say it? Is this word better than that word? The Rehearser is constantly thinking about what to say next rather than listening. By the time they say their well-rehearsed sentence, the moment has probably passed. And they will have missed what has been said in the meantime. And it probably doesn’t come out well as they haven’t got it exactly as they wanted, because they were trying to get it out word for word. Their action plan is then to rehearse more next time, and the downward spiral continues.

The Sparrer – The Sparrer argues and debates with people about what they are saying, doing, believing, or explaining. The Sparrer has to talk. The other person doesn’t feel heard, can feel very frustrated and can be drawn into explaining and justifying.

There you go – I hope that helps. What it doesn’t answer is just why so many of us are so poor at listening to others.

I’m sure specific individuals have come to mind as you have been reading through the descriptions. But perhaps we should reflect as to whether any of them apply to us?

Paul

The responsibility of power, and the power of responsibility

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Last week here in the UK, a couple of our Members of Parliament (MPs) made comments they regretted – or perhaps they regretted? Whether they did or they didn’t regret them, it has been claimed in some quarters that they said ‘sorry’ for their interventions, but I’m not sure that they did.

Labour front bencher Diane Abbott was the first. She Tweeted a fairly sweeping generalisation about what “white people” allegedy sometimes do, and in doing so raised a few eyebrows. She eventually sought to minimise any damage caused – after either a period of reflection or having been ordered to – and issued a statement. Within it she said, “I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people. I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused.”

The second example, which occurred around the same time as the first, was by a member of the Conservative Party – fortuitously, as it hopefully protects me from accusations of political affiliations! Our Prime Minister had made unfavourable comments about Ed Balls’ body language at Prime Minister’s Questions. He also felt the need to apologise. “I was speaking off the cuff, and if I offended anyone of course I am very sorry about that,” David Cameron said to Andrew Marr on the latter’s BBC1 Show. “That was not my intention at all.”, he added.

But these aren’t apologies. They are excuses for apologies.

Let’s say you go into a shop to complain about how you have been treated by a member of staff, because their actions and behaviour made you angry. You explain all this to the manager. The manager then apologises to you for your anger. How is that likely to impact on you? Has that really helped? And, perhaps most importantly, how seriously is the matter being taken.

Both Abbott and Cameron have only apologised to people experiencing negative feelings – and only for the feelings, not for their own actions. If you didn’t experience any feelings, they are not talking to you. They haven’t taken responsibility for their behaviour.

This theme of responsibility raised its ugly head again yesterday when I was watching a football match on the Television. A player was waiting for the ball to be returned to him so that he could take a throw in, and from the brief close up it was obvious that the player was receiving a considerable amount of abuse from that section of the crowd.  The commentator felt a need to comment. Perhaps because of the colour of the players skin, perhaps because the player had recently been involved in a high profile confrontation with an allegedly racist foundation, perhaps for some other reason. Commenting about the abuse of footballers, he said, “It is habitual …. It goes on, blue, red, black, white, it’s the nature of the beast”.

Sadly, I accept such abuse happens – I go to football matches. But it’s not habitual and if I am part of that collective ‘beast’, it’s certainly not in my nature.  I would have preferred it if the commentator had been a little less resigned and a shown a little more responsibility. Rather than accepting it as the norm and labelling everyone, would it not have been more helpful for him to point out the unacceptability of what was happening, and that it doesn’t have to be like that, to the millions who were viewing?

Having staff take responsibility for their actions is a key role of management. Where a manager genuinely apologises for the inappropriate or unhelpful actions of one of their staff, as opposed to the feelings of the customer, he or she is more likely to deal with the matter robustly. And where the manager ensures that the employee takes responsibility for their actions, the approach is more mature and more beneficial for organisational development – which can only contribute positively to the organisation’s successes.

I am currently working with one organisation where such an approach has had a powerful result. In past times, when one of their drivers had a collision, they gave them additional training. For the past few years the first thing they do – where the driver is at fault – is to require them to take responsibility for their actions that led to the collision. This discussion leads to a greater insight into what the person has done and their specific development needs. This approach has contributed to a more than 25% reduction in collisions for this organisation.

Perhaps if this approach led to a 25% swing in voters, MPs would be more adept at taking responsibility for their actions – genuinely or otherwise!

Paul

Myers Briggs explained

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

In my last post, I explained – and enthused – about how I had undertaken my Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI©) Step I and II Practitioner training in Florida.

As I concluded the post, I realised that the it would make sense to readers who knew a little about MBTI, but not a lot of sense to others. So I said I would elaborate.

People’s behaviour and actions may often seem random or varied to us as observers, but according to Carl Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist, people follow patterns. Jung (see photo) labelled these patterns as ‘psychological types’. Katherine Briggs found Jung’s work whilst she was also grappling with similar thoughts – and then she and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, brought the theory into the mainstream by creating the MBTI instrument. This tool helps a person work out and understand their psychological type. The first MBTI instrument was published in 1962. It is currently the world’s widest used personality assessment.

Jung’s, Briggs’ and Myers’ typological model views psychological type as being similar to writing with our left or right hand – we are either born with, or develop, certain preferred ways of thinking and acting. The MBTI sorts these psychological (and naturally occurring) differences into four dichotomies – opposite pairs – which results in 16 possible psychological types. None of the types are better or worse, however, the theory suggests that individuals naturally prefer one overall combination of  type differences. The dichotomies are:

  • Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

A person’s ‘type’ is summarised by four letters – so a person preferring Introversion, Sensing, Thinking and Judging would have an ISTJ type.

The Step I questionnaire comprises 93 questions, the answers to which help enable a person identify the above type. I say ‘help’ because whilst the MBTI has been shown to be very reliable, it is accepted that it will not be correct every time. Consequently, a person having their results interpreted should be taken through a process which enables them to self-assess their type prior to receiving their full report. If there are any differences these can be discussed and the MBTI Practitioner will give the person further coaching to assist them to decide on their type.

The Step II questionnaire comprises 144 questions – the 93 from the Step I together with an additional 51 questions. The Step II recognises that it is not possible to ‘box’ every person in the world into 16 types – one ISTJ may well be different in type to another ISTJ.

Within the Step II each of the dichotomies is broken down into 5 ‘facets’. You could also call these ‘sub dichotomies’ . As an example, The Extraversion and Introversion dichotomy has the following facets:

  • Initiating or Receiving
  • Expressive or Contained
  • Gregarious or Intimate
  • Active or Reflective
  • Enthusiastic or Quiet

The left hand end of the above facets are generally where people with an Extraverted preference will find themselves, whilst the right hand words are associated with Introversion. Having said that, a person with an Introverted preference may find themselves as having a facet preference for ‘Initiating’ which can then help the individual understand why they may not concur  ompletely with their four letter type.

Undertaking the MBTI should always be voluntary, and it should never be used as a recruitment tool. Furthermore, it does not measure intelligence or competence.

It does, however, allow a person to understand themselves more clearly, and then look at how to develop the less preferred aspects of their type. Once a person understands their type, they can then move on to how their type potentially impacts on how they manage conflict, make decisions or work within a team.

It can also be used with teams to help them understand each other and work more effectively together. The Step II is particularly useful when working with a person in a one to one coaching relationship. It is a powerful tool.

If you have any other specific questions about it I am, of course, happy to answer them.

Paul

MBTI – two very different options

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Not only did I successfully complete my MBTI Step I and Step II Certified Practitioner qualifications, I paddled in the sea and walked along Clearwater Beach, took out a canoe in a State Park and met (and rubbed the nose of) a wild manatee, and visited all 4 Disney theme parks in a day. You have probably already worked out I didn’t do it in England.

I took the qualification in Gainesville, Florida, in early November 2011. Having encouraged others to follow this route in the past, I thought it relevant to check it out for myself (I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for you, dear readers!).

The main reason I encourage others to take a trip across The Pond is the cost saving.  The base cost to undertake the qualification in Gainesville was £758. To undertake it in England it would have cost me over £4,500. I find the financial saving both staggering and irresistible. And that’s before comparing the weather and leisure opportunities!

Obviously, if your base is in the UK it will probably cost you more in travel costs to undertake the qualification in the US, but there will still be savings. The table below shows what it cost me. You can then work out what your own costs would be and so undertake a comparison should you wish to.

Item OPP, Oxford CAPT, Gainesville,
Florida
Notes
Step I £3,234 (4 or 5* days, split over two periods of time) *OPP
website was unclear on exact duration
£758 (3 Days) The £ rate fluctuates due to exchange rate. The actual
price is $1195 ($1295 if booked less than 4 weeks before start of course and
$1495 anywhere else in the USA)
Step II £1,452 (1 day) Cost Included in above (1 day)
Total cost of qualification £4,686 inc. VAT (5 or 6 days spread over 3 periods of
time)
£758 (4 days in a row) Cost difference partly because OPP are sole provider in
Europe, and there are 3 providers in the US
Qualification process Not sure 5 ‘exams’ – a total of 70 questions. Need to get 80%
across all 5 (not in each).
If you are in the less than 5% who do not pass the exams,
you can complete the course by submitting an essay once you get home
Postage for manuals to be sent to UK Not sure whether this is included in OPP’s price £85 ($125) I went with another person, and they were happy to send
the Manuals together, which reduced the cost here to £55 each
Flights n/a £450 return
Rail fare to airport £30
Car hire (US) £104 (for 1 week)
Fuel (US) £37 (for 458 miles) Some of this was ‘pleasure mileage’
Accommodation (US) £30 per night
Food (US) £20 per day Breakfast free at hotel, CAPT provide great snacks and
drinks all through the training day

I went for a week as I was only able to get flights for less than £1,200 by staying for 7 nights. Consequently, I had an additional 3 days of very enjoyable rest and relaxation – as outlined in my opening paragraph.

Whilst the cost savings can be persuasive, I accept that this is only one aspect that people consider when undertaking learning. Encouragingly, I found that all the other aspects were positive.

The Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT) is the provider and they appear to be closer to Myers and Briggs ‘origins’ than some of the other providers.  For example, in their ‘Library’ where breaks are spent, they have Isabel Myers’ writing desk which she used for much of her work.

Our trainer was the ex-CEO of CAPT who now delivers these courses all around the US. He was very, very knowledgeable with 37 years’ experience of using and developing the MBTI instrument, although he was more of an instructor than a trainer.

There were 11 people in our group – 8 from the US, 2 from the UK and one from Belgium.  I both enjoyed and benefitted from the international mix – and from the feedback we received, our US colleagues also found it beneficial – and found the language differences very amusing! The international mix really did add an extra dimension to the programme which would certainly encourage me to undertake further learning in America. As examples , there were participants from the private, public and third sectors, and one person on the course was the Head of HR Administration for President Reagan’s adminstration.

One of my concerns prior to undertaking the programme was whether I (or how easy it) would be to then register with OPP in the UK so that I could purchase materials and reports. It has been very easy – I sent them a PDF of my certificate and they added me to their database within 48 hours. They have been very helpful.

I realise that some readers may not know what the MBTI instrument is – my next post will address this.

Gaining the qualification was an achievement, and visiting all 4 Disney theme parks in a day was also an achievement – and combining the two together made it a truly memorable event!

Paul

Tips on how to choose a coach

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I have been asked the question a couple of times recently, “How should I go about choosing a coach?” It’s not a question I have previously given too much thought to, but I have thought to myself in the past as to how I can choose the most appropriate mechanic, electrician, chimney sweep, dentist, etc.  And if two people ask me the question, perhaps I should think about it. So this is how I would recommend choosing a coach.

If at all possible, get some recommendations from friends or colleagues. Personal recommendations are generally the best. If that’s not possible, do some searches on the internet in your local area or perhaps contact your local Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) branch. Once you have the details of at least 3 potential coaches, consider the following approach with each of them.

Arrange to meet face to face with your prospective coach before you undertake any coaching. You need to feel comfortable with the person – and if you use your intuition, you should know within a few minutes as to whether there is the potential for the relationship to work. I say potential, as your selection process needs to be more thorough, but your intuition should tell you whether it’s worth progressing to that next stage. Trust your intuition.

Ask your prospective coach for some examples of people they have coached previously, or are coaching at the moment. If you are seeking something specific from the coaching – for example to improve your interview successes – ask what experience they have of coaching other individuals in such circumstances. And ask to speak to one of their current or past coachees. Not all coachees would be happy to do this, but any coach of any worth will have people they are coaching who will be more than happy to talk to other prospective coachees. If they are reluctant or unable to meet this request, I should be wary.

Enquire about their continuous professional development (CPD). In other words, how do they keep themselves up to date, how do they maintain and improve their skills? Good coaches will have a documented record of their CPD – ask to see a copy of it. Remember – it’s you who is in the driving seat as you are looking to employ this person’s services, so be as objectively intrusive as you need in order to satisfy yourself of the person’s coaching abilities. Some people ask coaches what their qualifications are – I think this is fairly pointless unless you are very well up to speed on coaching qualifications. There are some very good qualifications where there is much practical learning and there are others that are free to attend and last a day or less – both sets of attendees will call themselves ‘coaches’. Secondly, they may have gained their qualification this year, or 20 years ago – another reason to ask about their CPD.

Request a free coaching session – although the majority of good coaches will offer you this without you needing to ask for it. It could take place at your initial meeting or on a separate occasion. This will give you a better understanding of how well the two of you will be able to work together.

And what’s it all going to cost? Will the person charge per session, and if so how many sessions do you anticipate having? What will you get for your money? Is it just the session, or will the person make some notes for you? Will they offer you (free) email and phone support between sessions? Consider asking for an ‘outcome’ based fee as opposed to ‘output’ based. Let’s use the example I mentioned previously – wanting coaching in order to improve interview successes. If the person offers you six sessions at £Y each, suggest that you will pay them half that, but will give them a bonus (of more than 6 x £Y) if you are successful at interview within the next 12 months.  This would cost you slightly more if you are successful (which is what you want) or slightly less if you are not successful. It will also test how confident they are in their own skills, and possibly how confident they are that you have the potential.

You might think that this is a rather detailed and perhaps too thorough a process – I guess your views will depend on how much you value the potential benefits. If you do follow these tips, however, you will find yourself a very good quality coach.

Are there any tips I have missed?

Paul

 

Mediation matters

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

As a result of my last post on Steps and the process they went through in reforming, I received an email asking me about tips on successful mediation.

ACAS and CIPD have published an excellent guide, “Mediation – an Employer’s Guide”.  If you are considering implementing a mediation process in your organisation, I think it’s invaluable. It is also very helpful if you just want to learn more about the process of mediation. If, however, you don’t read long documents, just don’t have time to read the booklet, or want to hear someone else’s views on mediation, here goes.

Mediations are probably some of the most enjoyable things I do in the work environment . This is partly because I have seen how beneficial they can be to both the individuals involved and their organisations, and partly because they are exciting to facilitate. I considered for several minutes whether I should use the word “exciting” in case it sounded frivolous – but I do find them exciting.

They are exciting because I never know what is going to happen and I always feel I have to be at the top of my game when dealing with them. The participants will react in all sorts of ways – dependent upon what I say and do, and what the other person or persons say and do. I think my overall tip is that a mediator needs to go into such situations with the “I can handle” belief as opposed to the less confident “I need to handle”. If a person is approaching the handling of mediations with the latter attitude, I would suggest that they undertake some co-mediation before undertaking them alone.

Many people advocate meeting with the participants several days before the mediation in order that they know you, understand that it is a voluntary process, understand how the process is likely to unfold and have the opportunity to ask you any questions. I see the sense in that, but there are also times when I would not meet individuals until the day of the mediation. This would particularly be the case where I am working as an internal ediator (i.e. as a fellow employee) and the individuals are working closely together. I need them both (or all) to know that I am independent and that I have not taken sides with either party prior to the mediation. So, if it also meets their needs (and it often does as they have already decided the mediation will not work!) then I explain to them individually on the day what is likely to happen, my role, etc.

Whichever process I follow though, I never discuss the issues that we ae meeting about and at the start of the meeting when they come together I always ask each person to confirm that this is the case. This is really important for me so that I enter the situation with no ‘baggage’ or information that I might otherwise let slip into the conversation, and so that the parties know that I am impartial.

As for the process itself, the key to a successful mediation is encouraging and enabling people to talk in terms of facts as opposed to adjectives. By the time we have got to the mediation stage, they are almost always viewing their relationship or the situation in terms of adjectives. They are often running on negative emotion, which is great fuel for generating a lack of objectivity.

Once we are in a room all together, one person gets the chance to explain the situation from their perspective. Using only facts. I stop the monologue whenever an adjective is used – unless it is the person explaining how something made them feel. And the other person(s) cannot interrupt – hence why I call it a monologue. They can each make notes to remind them of points they want to make, but they can’t interject. This makes them listen – which, after sticking to the facts, is the second most important aspect of a mediation. Using monologues also stops arguments and disagreements – up until getting together for the formal mediation they will often have jumped into the situation, and no listening takes place.

And facts generally get people to start to listen – because facts have been missing for so long, so they hear a different story. If I have mediated successfully, I have helped to change the record.

By the time the other person then gets to give their monologue it is usually a little easier for the mediator. And if you achieve that as the mediator, the rest of it is relatively easy.

At the conclusion, I always encourage them to write down what they have agreed. This is so important. It means that they have clarity on what they have agreed, and have almost ‘a statement’ that they can read or give to other interested parties – which limits the potential for reverting to adjectives!

I remember one that I facilitated where the individuals would not even look at each other at the start – they sat back to back with their arms folded. Gradually, as they listened to facts they became increasingly engaged. The making of a written note for future reference, a look over the shoulder, moving the position of the chairs – all great signs for the mediator! After 4 hours together, they understood what had actually taken place, accepted each other’s position, agreed a ‘statement’ to give to the other members of their team and decided to go out for a meal together that evening.

Their manager called it a “miracle”. I was pleased with the impact on productivity and performance it had for the team, but I wouldn’t have called it a miracle. I just enabled people to deal in facts and listen to each other.

One of my previous posts gives additional assistance and structure for mediations – “Can you afford not to do this?” explains a model called CUDSA which I always use in such circumstances.

If this generates any other questions for you, I’m happy to try and answer them. Alternatively, what are your tips for other mediators?

Paul

 

The art of measurement

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

I have recently questioned the number of networking events that I have the opportunity to attend – and more specifically the benefit of many of them. There are some beneficial ones that I attend – where I learn and develop – and there are others that appear to be run for the benefit of the few organisers, and are marketing events thinly veiled as networking events. Unfortunately, in my view, too many of them are leaning towards the latter.

Consequently, at the suggestion of another self-employed colleague, she and I loosely organised – ‘set up’ sounds too grandiose a term – a ‘Walk and Talk’ event. The intention was that there would be 6 or 7 mile walks in areas of outstanding beauty where we could chat, theorise, contemplate, problem solve, reflect, and seek the counsel of other like-minded individuals. I am pleased to say that these have really taken off now – as we walk, smaller groups of 2 or 3 will chat for a while, and then, perhaps where a gate is opened or a stile is negotiated, the groups will seamlessly change and other discussions will develop. If the surface is suitable, sometimes a model is drawn and discussed (sandy, slightly damp conditions appear most suited to this aspect!). They happen about every six weeks, there are different people every time, and we have fun, develop ideas and keep fit as we go!

On the last walk, I was listening to two fellow walkers discussing coaching. One of the threads of their conversation led to them discussing a definition of coaching, which was “… the art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another’. The provider explained that the quote is by Myles Downey and that he likes it because it implies an intuitive art to the process, as well as the mechanical deployment of skills and techniques. He added that the most important word to him within the definition is ‘art’.

This set me thinking. As some of you are aware, I don’t generally have a lot of time for qualifications relating to the acquisition of people skills. There is too much measurement of outputs, and insufficient valuing of outcomes. As a prospective employer, I really don’t care whether you have a trainer’s qualification or not – what I care about is whether you can demonstrate that you have used sound learning and development principles to bring about or contribute to improved and quantifiable organisational performance.

Coaching is the same. So you’ve got a qualification. That’s positive in that it demonstrates a commitment to learning and a desire to improve oneself, but it may not tell me whether you have assisted in improving a person’s performance through your coaching skills. And so do they really help a customer who is seeking a
competent coach?

If coaching is an art, can a qualification measure what is an art? Mozart, Lennon, Dali, Rodin, Rowling – did they have qualifications relevant to their arts?

Perhaps there is a place for qualifications at a basic level within an art, but surely there comes a point where the skills are beyond the realms of being broken down into competencies?

Benjamin Bloom presented us with his Taxonomy of learning within the Cognitive Domain many years ago. As you may well be aware, a taxonomy is an ‘ordered list’, and Bloom identified 6 stages we have to pass through in developing our knowledge of a subject or field of expertise. These levels are Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.

A coaching qualification can, I accept, measure a person’s ability to the Application level, but can it measure it beyond this level? The top quality coaches who I have had the pleasure and fortune to witness exhibiting their skills are beyond this level. They use their feelings, their sixth sense, their intuition – that’s why they are the best. They are true artists.

As for the Walk and Talk, I was so involved in these personal reflections, I was only walking and contemplating at that time. But that’s fine – and that’s what makes it so good. Everyone has the space to do what they want, when they want to do it and how they want to do it.

And, even better, people bring their walking boots rather than their business cards.

Paul