Getting ready for coaching

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

Getting ready for coachingOver recent posts we’ve seen that in order to turn more potential into high performance we needed to minimise the sources of interference which work against that happening.

But this presupposes that people come to us wanting to produce high performance, and this isn’t necessarily so.

If you’ve been asked or employed to provide some one-to-one coaching to a member of the executive team you can probably assume that they will be motivated to undertake some coaching with you. It follows that they are likely to give honest answers to your questions, to listen to your ideas and suggestions and to act on the things you’ve discussed between meetings and phone calls.

But in trying to bring coaching into general play; to position it as a management approach rather than a discrete intervention, you might find conditions less favourable. In some ways coaching has become a term cheapened by misuse and because of this you may encounter a certain amount of resistance. This can range from the mildly apathetic to the downright hostile. It all seems bizarre, given that we’re simply trying to help people so let’s look at the common reasons for this resistance.

  • Management is up to something
  • Coaching is for poor performers
  • I’m okay where I am

Management is up to something

Okay, it’s a cynical view but is hardly surprising given the way some management teams behave. People have had change initiatives thrown at them for years now and most of them have amounted to very little. If this has been people’s experience then it’s small wonder that coaching is greeted with little enthusiasm. People can tell when you’ve been away on a course and been ‘got at’.  They also know that if they keep their heads down then after a few days you’ll probably go back to ‘normal’.

Coaching is for poor performers

Nobody likes to be thought of as needing special lessons, but all too often coaching is presented this way. A strong desire to improve performance in the organisation gets mutated into ‘I’m being coached, so I must be doing something wrong’ in the mind of the individual.

In my experience this particular worry is most easily countered by pointing to the worlds of entertainment and sport where coaching is a vital ingredient whatever the level of current performance, Great sportspeople and entertainers welcome regular and intensive coaching even though their level of performance is already astonishing by most standards.

By mindful though that sporting analogies and so on can seem a little tiresome for some.

I’m okay where I am

An overzealous approach to coaching can make it seem as if we want everybody to be Superman. Some people resist coaching because they’re quite content where they are and do not want to actively pursue a promotion or a change of role. Great! That’s fine but let’s make sure that people realise that coaching isn’t just about climbing the greasy pole. We can coach to help people feel less threatened by change. We can coach to help people get back to the parts of their job they once really enjoyed. We can coach to help people find a work-life balance. Coaching is a way of taking the next step and as such it has applications throughout working life and, I think, should be made available to all. However, let’s also respect people’s right not to be coached if that is what they would prefer. To do so goes a long way to establishing the credibility of coaching and building the trusting relationships so vital to its success. In time even the most reluctant of people will try coaching when they have something in mind they’d like to achieve.

Coaching at work is performance focused but person centred

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Uncategorized

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Coaching at work is performance focused but person centredAs we’ve seen in the last few posts, the fundamental role of the coach is to minimise interference so that more potential can be turned into performance.

Even today work seems to be organised in such a way as to make it difficult for people to reach their potential, but there is increasing pressure to get the people side of business right. Already some big corporations are including reports on their ‘human capital’ in their annual report and accounts. It can surely not be long until shareholders begin to hold boards to account and demand proof that their Human Resource management is as strong as their Financial or Commercial Management.

The potential is all there to begin with. We need to take the view that the staff in any organisation are a resourceful group of people with the ability to help the business achieve its aims. Such a strong philosophical standpoint will reap dividends as the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy takes hold. In the short-term there may people who take advantage, who are lazy, disloyal and intent on high jacking progress, but we cannot structure the whole organisation to try to prevent this. As a high-performance culture takes shape such people become increasingly marginalised and can no longer muster support for their subversive behaviour. We need to give every opportunity for people to perform, but respect people’s choice to reject these opportunities. In these cases we must provide a dignified means of exit so that people may move on with their self-belief intact.

Potential is suppressed by a host of external and internal sources of interference. Key amongst the external factors is the management style of the organisation. People will deduce the prevailing management style based on a number of indicators but probably the most compelling is the behaviour of the most senior team. People these days demand that the leadership team ‘walk the talk’. Post Enron and other scandals there is a growing feeling that business ethics must once again come to the fore. Organisations are responding by articulating statements of Corporate and Social Responsibility but these initiatives must be seen as genuine by employees or they’ll be dismissed as just another management fad.

A greater challenge is to identify sources of internal interference. There are few people working in ‘the zone’, most are dogged by low confidence, fear of failure and subsequent reprisal, doubts about their future and a fundamental limiting belief that they are somehow not good enough.

Coaching is the means by which leaders and managers can deal with these and other challenges. Coaching is person centred which means it is an approach that sees the individual as hard-wired with all they need to achieve results. Coaches do not rescue or save people rather they facilitate learning and liberate talent.

Coaching at work needs also to be performance focused. It’s about getting people to be bigger and better at what they do. It’s difficult to see that such a move could produce anything other than a positive result.

Of course the challenges of working life mean that it is not enough to produce high performance on an occasional basis. We need to keep it there….

Limiting beliefs are based on evidence

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

Limiting beliefs are based on evidenceJo and Sam both work on the Organisation Development (OD) section of a large local authority and their work involves submitting proposals for OD to projects to the Senior Management Team for approval.

Jo believes that Senior Management do not support new ideas. She backs this up by explaining that her budget submission for this year was turned down flat and that this particularly upset her given that her previous year’s budget had been approved. She goes on to point out that in the last six months six out of ten project inception proposals had been declined. She feels that senior management are just too conservative and tend to reject anything new.

Sam believes that Senior Management are supportive of new ideas. To illustrate this he points out that although his budget for this year was turned down, last year’s submission, which was far more radical, was approved. He says that four out of every ten project inception proposals are approved and that many of the ones rejected should never have been submitted in the first place. In Sam’s view the Senior Management team are very conservative and so need a compelling case to support a new idea.

Same roles, same circumstances, same management team, but utterly polarised beliefs about them.

Believing the senior management team to be unsupportive Jo is likely to work on her budgets without any real enthusiasm and to do only what is necessary on her reports knowing they’ll probably be rejected anyway.

Believing the senior management team to be supportive, Sam is likely to produce a highly detailed budget submission and to make sure his reports show a strong supporting case for his suggestions.

Jo is likely to be turned down, Sam is likely to be supported, adding further supporting evidence to each of their beliefs.

The reinforcement of beliefs is further strengthened by an area of our brains known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS). Our RAS is a filtering system that prevents us being overloaded by the huge array of stimuli that assail our senses every day. Have you ever noticed that if you see a car with an unusual colour that you suddenly seem to see them everywhere? This is your RAS at work. Cars of that colour were always there but your RAS has now been alerted to notice them.

In our story above, Jo’s RAS will provide lots of supporting evidence to reinforce her belief about the senior team. Her brain will filter out anything that runs contrary. Sam’s on the other hand will do the opposite, providing proof that the team are supportive and confirming his beliefs.

The message for coaches is a simple one. If you uncover a limiting belief, challenge the evidence. Offer an alternative point of view and encourage your coachees to widen their perspective and to consider other points of view. You may not take away limiting beliefs overnight, but you can certainly loosen their hold.