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Adding Certification

I've been coaching and mentoring for many years and it seemed to go very well. Now, I have decided to add a vocational qualification and signed up to a Institute for Management (ILM) Level 7 Coaching Certification, which will take me a year. I like a good theory and the course (which has other elements such as supervision) has given me a broader perspective on my coaching. I am looking forward to spread my wings and help more people on their way toa successful life and career. #Coaching #ILM

Anticipation

A key aspect in self development is to nurture the art of learning and applying it to future events. If this is sounds trivial to you I would like to assure you that it is not, even if you are self-aware and generally open-minded. Let me explain why I came to think this way. I had a boss once who prided himself in asking the off-beat, unexpected question. For him this was like an intellectual game and at first it seemed to me he was just stalling in making his decisions. It took me a while before I clicked - if I tried really hard I could start to anticipate his questions and have a ready-made answer for him. This worked extremely well. I was able to start to demonstrate that I knew my stuff, which in turn built trust with him and I got more decisions more quickly. To be fair, he still managed to rumble me now and then... Later on in my career I had a similar boss, but I never found the sweet spot with him. When I analyse that relationship now I am amazed about my own inability to play the game correctly. What had changed? Over many successful years I had come to the point where "I knew best". Somehow I convinced myself that I no longer had to justify my actions, that the decisions I was pushing for were obvious and all that was needed was for my seniors to applaud in approval. What is the conclusion? Whatever we think, whatever we are sure of, we still need to convince others to sign-off, fund, or support our proposals. That means exploring and understanding their frame of mind, their constraints, and their emotional state in relationship to the topic. Keep thinking of all the questions someone might ask of you - in other words, hone your anticipation skills and you will have better relationships and get more accomplished throughout your (working) life. #coaching #mentoring #management

Where Schools go wrong with Digital

Attended a breakfast meeting at the local school today - topic "Closing the Digital Skills Gap". To be frank - the situation in the UK seems shocking to me. Frequent direction changes from the government is leading to chaos and confusion - people on the ground are doing their best, but are required to fight the good fight with 2 hands tied behind their back. It is imperative that we should do the following: - we need to teach more "transferable skills". Problem solving, analytical skills, understanding data, understanding business skills - technology will keep changing, these skills will last throughout one's career - we need to make the acquisition of digital skills a continuous process with a smooth transition from the simple to the complex - we need to address all the building blocks: User Experience, APIs, Databases, and Analytics It also came up in conversation that there is a misconception about the creative element in digital. After all, the first impression of an app is the interface - and that's where knowledge about graphic design, user experience design, Gestalt Theory and suchlike are vital elements.

When things go bang (#2)

Before I start - don't press the button on the image - it doesn't work, I tried it :) Here is one I wrote in 2010 - and I think it's still valid... How should we communicate bad news? It's definitely a multi-stage process starting on the very first day of working together, when you establish the ground rules of engagement. How often do you review? How does your boss like to be kept up-to-date? If managed pro-actively bad news hardly ever comes as a surprise, for example when expectations are set correctly. Now - however hard you try, now and then it will all go wrong. Unforeseen circumstances or, heaven forbid, a mistake you or your team made, will lead you to the point where you have to break bad news unexpectedly. Before you communicate - think! Get all the facts right and avoid over-reacting or unnecessary dramatisation. If you made a mistake - own up. No boss worth a penny will hold a fully-fledged mistake against you (meaning you tried to do the right thing but it did not work out). Of course, you cannot make the same mistake twice without consequences. Come with solutions - not just problems. Most bosses hate it when their team members only come with problems and give no indication that they have put effort into fixing the problem themselves. Don't dress up and/or confuse your message. - it's the same principle which applies to giving feedback. Don't mix good and bad (delivering the infamous s**t sandwich), because the good won't be remembered anyhow in that context. Most importantly - don't delay. Problems tend by their nature to get worse. The sooner all the facts are known and everybody is on the same page, the earlier a path to resolution can be defined and executed. And finally - everybody who is a boss already (or will be in the future), should also think about this. Firstly bosses usually have bosses themselves, but secondly.... remember how it felt! #management #communication #leadership #boss #badnews #expectations

The Staff Sergeant

When middle managers reach maturity and the associated remuneration levels, they become vulnerable to being made redundant. As a general rule at this stage of their career these managers are less mobile, a little less ambitious and possibly a little jaded – having seen “action” in various and numerous battles along the lines. Your 25 budget round or re-organisation #12 aren’t quite as exciting as they used to be. As companies strive to create a younger, more affordable and possibly more agile workforce, the obvious solution is to cut this tier. I think there is a better way. Instead of letting a massive amount of experience just drift away let’s aim for more age diversity. Whilst it is true that individual performance will decline with age in the work place the sum of all individuals’ efforts is what counts. Can we harness the superior experience of the older manager and overcome the hurdles which can be caused by the fact that people relate easier to others of their own age group with whom they share common experiences? I am convinced it is possible and benefits the individual and the organisation. Let’s assume for a minute that our ageing middle manager (Joe) is willing to step aside in terms of career progression and line management duties, opening the path for the next generation. The kids are likely out of school or even university by now and the mortgage is not the challenge it once was. Let’s therefore envisage that Joe is happy to scale down his hours and his pay. Like a non-commissioned officer (i.e. the Staff Sergeant) in the army, who knows everything about how the company operates, who develops people, even young officers on their way through the ranks, Joe could be playing a vital part in knowledge transfer, coaching, and mentoring. The company saves money, the young talents develop faster, and the dignity of the retiree is maintained throughout. I once “retired” a colleague who was 72 years old. We took it easy – I gave him a year. He helped find his successor and trained her. She took her place in the management group early, sitting alongside him, benefiting greatly from this experience and from her mentor’s guidance. When everything was handed over, we send him off with a great party. Throughout this year, he was the voice of reason in the team, where the average age was 30 something. Win-win. My final point is this: any workforce where the majority of people is from the same age group puts the organisation at risk, irrespective of whether they are all older or all younger. A company dominated by older professionals will become stale whilst a purely young profile removes the opportunity for generational mentoring. #diversity #age #management #mentoring #coaching

When things don't go right

I am a Peter Drucker fan, so it was never going to be too long before some of his business thinking would make an appearance here... Drucker was fully aware that change is inevitable, like it or not: "A theory of the business always becomes obsolete when an organisation attains its original objectives". That’s why he advised use of abandonment - meaning that every three years you should challenge every product, service, policy and distribution channel with the question, "If we were not in it already, would we be going into it now?" - the self-same question that led to the revolution at GE. But Drucker adds three more queries, which I think are simple but very powerful in helping us analyse undertakings which did not go to plan:

"Why didn’t this work, even though it looked so promising when we went into it five years ago?"

• Is it because we made a mistake?

• Is it because we did the wrong things?

• Or is it because the right things didn’t work?

Drucker also insisted that preventing collapse required studying the customers - and, very important, the non-customers: "The first signs of fundamental change rarely appear within one’s own organisation or among one’s own customers"

How to please your boss - Tuning in

Do we really have to "please" the boss? Maybe that sounds a bit strong or slightly weird - but surely we want to have the best possible working relationship irrespective of whether we like or rate our leaders? The manner in which you project your messages, verbally and non-verbally, has a strong impact on how your boss will view you. Typical blunders are caused mainly by not tuning in. The key to success is to understand the style preferences of your boss and "flex" your own style to suit. For instance, if your boss is analytical and quietly thoughtful, provide details and give him/her time to digest - don't put a person like this on the spot. A good option is usually to give the option of "returning to the subject later". If your leader is action oriented, reduce the detail, expect quicker decisions and a certain amount of impatience - make sure you grab his/her attention quickly and make clear that you are in command of the details and you have thought things through. Other, more general problems need to be overcome as well: Improper handshake, poor eye contact, inappropriate speech volume, hesitation/long pauses (especially on the phone) can easily be avoided, but it takes some effort: a) the willingness to change b) conscious awareness of your own demeanour c) practice & feedback Use a friend or good colleague to give you insight on the way you come across. Then practice, practice, practice. Eventually your behaviour will first appear natural and then become natural. #communication #personalstyle #tuningin #boss

On values and fear

What we consider rewarding is directly linked to what we value. Consequently our values are like our inner objectives and are very powerful in driving our behaviour.


If we fail to follow our values, we create an imbalance in our lives and this can lead to disappointment, fear, and anger. (BTW - people only tend to get angry when something is important to them.)


What stops us from following our values?


Values have related needs and fears. Needs and fears are opposite sides of the same coin. When needs are adequately met, fear is reduced. When not, fear increases, and if this happens over a longer period of time, it has a negative impact on the way we relate to our environment, our overall happiness and somewhere down the line our performance.


Some of us (or possibly all of us for some of the time?) allow fear to control our decisions and behaviour - but this is truly counter-productive. By focussing on your primary needs (as established through your values) you maximise the chances of breaking a negative, re-enforcing feedback loop and come closer to fulfilment.


Now this is pretty abstract, so here is my attempt to be practical about this:


I personally have a need for achievement, autonomy, power, rewards, and stimulation.

If my autonomy is undermined, I will develop frustration and fear - the fear that I might never again be able to be autonomous.

This in return will inform my decision to be "defensive", to ignore root causes, to concentrate on secondary fulfilment, instead of focussing all my energy on achieving a degree of autonomy which meets my needs. #values #fear #needs #performance

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