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Matt Somers

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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.

Coaching and Limiting Beliefs

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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Limiting BeliefsThere is much talk in self-help and business improvement literature about beliefs. There is also much talk about vision and values, culture and ethos and much blurring at the edges of them all. So, let me firstly be clear about what I mean when I talk about beliefs. It is those things you hold to be ‘true’. For example, ‘the purpose of business is to make money’.

I attended a seminar recently and the first speaker clearly held this particular belief. At one point, he said that he defied anybody to claim that they were in business for any reason other than making money. A hand went up and a young man explained that no, for him business was about providing opportunities for people and building something from scratch. This was particularly galling and embarrassing for the first speaker as the young man was due to speak next and was clearly not ‘on message’.

Limiting beliefs are therefore those that interfere with our potential being released. They are the things which we hold to be true that prevent us taking action or doing things differently. Here are some of the ones I’ve come across on many occasions:

  • I will be in trouble if I get this wrong
  • Senior management will never support this idea
  • I’m the manager, I’m supposed to have all the answers
  • I must win at all costs
  • I am working, I am not here to enjoy myself

Some of you might believe some of these statements to be ‘true’ for you, and you might be right. Beliefs can never be proved as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or they’d be facts and not beliefs.

Our role as coaches is not to agree or disagree with such statement of belief; rather it is our job to encourage deeper thought and challenge the assumptions on which such beliefs are often founded.

Let’s imagine we’re coaching someone who wants to implement a new shift rota because they feel it will be fairer and more efficient but who also articulates the belief that I will be in trouble if I get this wrong. Some might say, ‘don’t be silly’ or ‘of course you won’t’ or ‘to hell with them, do it anyway’, but this is unlikely to prove helpful as none of these responses challenge the basis of the limiting belief. Instead we could ask, ‘How do you know you’ll be in trouble?’, ‘What sort of trouble will you be in?’, ‘Have you been in this situation before?’, ‘Do you know other people who’ve handled this situation?’, ‘What can you do now to ensure it won’t go wrong’

We can see that these questions would encourage our coachee to think in greater detail about why they believe they would be in trouble and to consider whether to risk it. None of our questions are judgemental and so we are unlikely to get into an argument over who’s right and who’s wrong.

Simply inviting the people we coach to re-consider the basis of their limiting beliefs is often enough to leave them feeling mobilised to do something despite them. Other times, when the belief is deep rooted, it may be necessary to explore further and to consider how such beliefs come to be formed.

We’ll look at that next time.