Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Coaching and the Hawthorne Effect

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

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Isn't it nice to be noticed?

Isn't it nice to be noticed?

If you want to see an immediate boost in levels of motivation, fire up your word processor and create a quick questionnaire for each of your team members which asks:

  •  What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
  • What aspect of your job do you least enjoy?
  • What aspect of your job would you most like to see stay the same?

Type up and issue one questionnaire for each member of your team. You may need to explain that you’re looking at ways to improve motivation and that the starting point is getting a better idea of what makes them tick.

You can get people to put their names on the sheets if you like or you can do it anonymously if you think you’ll get a more honest response.

If you think issuing questionnaires is a bit heavy-handed, pop the questions on a flip chart or white board and have an open team discussion around them. Alternatively if there’s a scheduled performance review or appraisal coming up, factor the questions into your one to one discussions.

In any event you’ll be gathering valuable information about levels and types of motivation in the team which you can use to develop a long-term approach.

However, I promised this tip would improve motivation straight away and it will. Here’s how it works: By asking people questions you’ll be paying them attention and you’ll benefit from the ‘Hawthorne effect’

Perhaps the most famous experiments in motivation were carried our by management researcher Elton Mayo and his team at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne plant in Chicago. Between 1924 and 1932, five sets of tests were conducted in an attempt to understand what made workers assembling telephone equipment more productive.

To begin with the experiments concentrated on improvements to lighting. Productivity indeed improved, but it also improved when the lights were dimmed. This odd result was repeated in experiments which looked at pay, incentives, rest periods, hours of work, and supervision. Mayo advanced two theories.

He firstly suggested that the very fact of being involved in an experiment encouraged the workers to be more productive. It created interest and involvement in their repetitive work, and their managers began taking an interest in how they felt. Mayo’s second theory was that social interaction had a critical effect on motivation because the experiment meant bringing workers together in teams with a positive relationship with a supervisor. In any event it seemed the workers simply appreciated the change the experiments brought about, felt more valued and generally happier and thus their performance improved. So just by issuing your questionnaire you’re showing that you’re taking an interest in your people and that you value their contribution. You should see results improve even if you did nothing more.

This questioning approach lies at the heart of management by coaching. If you embrace the coaching role you’ll be paying this sort of quality attention to your staff every working day. The improvements that follow can be quite staggering. With coaching as the prevailing style you can ensure a constant level of motivation, not just the quick fillip provided by waving the carrot or the stick.

The link between coaching and learning

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

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And lunch will be at, er, lunchtime

And lunch will be at, er, lunchtime

Take a look at most of the learning and development activity in any organization and you’ll find a concentration on what I’ll call ‘events’. By this I mean training courses, special meetings, workshops, seminars, or even time set aside for on line or distance learning. All well and good but the problem with this concentration on ‘events’ is that it reinforces the limiting belief that learning and performing are separate and competing activities.

We worry about the ‘transfer’ of learning and we ponder how to take learning ‘back’ into the work situation. Coaching resolves the tension between learning and performing by making them part and parcel of the same thing.

With coaching support our people can learn whilst they perform and perform as they learn. Coaching can also provide a far more enjoyable and cost effective route into learning without the reliance on events.

There is a well known model that suggests that learning – or becoming competent – is a question of passing through four distinct phases. Let’s attempt to see how this applies in a typical work situation.

Meet Ed. Ed is a young man who works in a conference centre. Until very recently Ed’s job has been largely manual; putting the chairs in place, rearranging tables, setting up the IT equipment and sorting out flipcharts. One Friday afternoon Ed’s boss informs him that from the following Monday morning she would like Ed to also run through the domestic arrangements with groups of delegates once they have been escorted from the coffee area to the conference room.

 Unconscious incompetence

That Friday evening Ed becomes a bit worried; he starts to fret about Monday. He has listened to his colleagues make the announcements hundreds of times, but he has never addressed a group before. He thinks it might be very difficult, but doesn’t really know why he thinks that.

Conscious incompetence

On Monday morning Ed takes a deep breath and begins his address. Unfortunately he forgets to mention the fire alarm test and tells the group that they will have lunch in the restaurant when in fact they are going to have a buffet in the conference room. He is so nervous that his mouth becomes dry and this makes him even more uncertain in his speech. However he notices many of the people in the room smiling warmly at him and some even chuckle when he makes a couple of witty remarks.

Conscious competence

Over the next couple of week’s it gets easier, Ed has written the points he must cover on a prompt card and finds the whole notion of addressing a group less threatening. He takes a few deep breaths and has a quiet ‘chat with himself’ before entering the room and this all seems to help.

Unconscious competence

Some weeks later Ed barely thinks about announcing the domestic arrangements. He has other things to worry about and when the time comes, he pops into the conference room reels off the announcements and quickly moves on to other things. To the outsider Ed looks the picture of confidence, but he does have a tendency to forget bits of information and can look a bit distracted at times.

We can similarly apply this cycle to most tasks and activities at work. The main lesson for coaching managers is to recognize that learning can only take place in the conscious – or I might say aware – phases of the cycle. Thus coaching questions move people from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence but also from Unconscious Competence back to Conscious Competence to address any bad habits.

We normally let the cycle run its course, but coaching can dramatically accelerate the speed of our journey around it. We often think that we only go round the cycle once, but what would happen if we chose to repeat the cycle time and time again?

How to use coaching to integrate a team (and other useful learning points)

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

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Loads of Learning!

Loads of Learning!

This week I ran my training course, Coaching at Work for a group of managers interested in using coaching skills to improve motivation and performance in their businesses.

Here are their personal learning objectives along with my closing tips related to them, which I thought might be useful to share more widely.

By the way, I’ve changed the names to protect privacy. I will send a copy of my e-book Coaching Headaches and How to Cure Them to anyone who can identify where I got these names from.


Alexandria: What’s the difference between coaching and mediation?

If mediation is about resolving differences then I suppose coaching becomes a structure for having those sometimes difficult conversations.

Babylon: How to use coaching to integrate a merged team

We saw that one of the facets of a high performing team is a sense of alignment to a common goal. I would have both individual and group coaching conversations to discuss what such a goal should be, making sure that sense of ownership is there.

Diana: How to use coaching to deal with difficult behaviour

Whilst you might need some other skills initially such as giving accurate feedback on behaviour, the coaching will kick in at the point the individual realises the effect of their behaviour and expresses a willingness to change. Many people have such a dulled sense of awareness that they simply don’t realise what their behaviour is doing to others.

Halicarnassus : Using coaching to get back to the people side of business

We can describe coaching a being performance focused yet person centred, i.e. in the end it is only people that can create change and improvement

Colossus: Using coaching to bring people forward

Coaching is always about forward momentum. It starts from the her and now and helps people plan their next steps, irrespective of what may have happened in the past.

Pyramid: To learn about coaching generally

I hope you did!

Jupiter: Using coaching in PDRs, etc

Performance Development Reviews (PDRs) represent a natural opportunity to utilise coaching techniques My advice would be to spend plenty of time looking forward and setting new aims, rather than getting bogged down in what happened last year, etc