Posts Tagged ‘performance’

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….

External Interference and the problems it causes in coaching

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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External Interference and the problems it causes in coachingIn my last post I introduced Tim Gallwey’s simple equation for coaching for performance:

POTENTIAL  = Potential – Interference

Previous posts have dealt with definitions for potential and performance so let’s now turn our sights on interference.

Let’s talk firstly about what I call external interference. By this I mean the things that go on around us at work which may make it difficult for us to work near to our potential. Once again we’ll refer firstly to a typical list of such things produced by the many people I have asked to consider them:

  • Management
  • Restrictive policies and procedures
  • Blame culture
  • Ideas not accepted
  • Lack of opportunity

Let’s deal with each of these in turn.


Now how’s that for irony? We, the very people who are supposed to mobilise the abilities of people at work are seen as actually getting in the way. This seems to be due to the prevalence of Theory X thinking amongst the management ranks. This style of thinking and subsequent behaviour is perpetuated by a lack of alternative role models. I remember once attending a meeting to discuss the possibilities of implementing a coaching programme for a prospective client. After the usual small talk his opening line was ‘Well I’ve brought you here because I used to get them working by shouting at them, but apparently you can’t do that anymore’ Well, shout at people all you want but is this really how we’re going to tap into their discretionary effort?

Restrictive policies and procedures

 Obviously places of work need rules and systems and to establish acceptable practices. Without them there would be anarchy. But in these times when competitive pressures are increasing the need for people to work with their imagination and to think creatively such rules can be overdone. This is not restricted to obviously creative endeavours like marketing or advertising. From the factory floor to the retail sales floor we need people to be able to take action and make things happen particularly if directly involved with customers. So many practices from signing-in sheets to six-page expenses claim forms seem to be there because of a lack of trust in the workforce. Why would any organisation employ people it can’t trust?

Blame culture

 What happens in your organisation when things go wrong? Is judicious risk taking extolled in the business plan and then utterly condemned in practice? Against this background is it any wonder that people keep themselves small, safely tucked up in their comfort zones and keeping their ideas to themselves?

Ideas not accepted

 On a similar note, what happens in your organisation when somebody has a good idea? Is there a means to capture ideas, to nurture them and let them grow, or are they left to wither on the vine choked by and endless stream of position papers, inception reports or suggestion scheme submissions.

This factor is exacerbated the greater the distance on the hierarchy between those who generate ideas and those who can chose to act upon them. It is once again ironic that in most structures it is the former who are closest to the customers and that latter who are many steps removed.

Lack of opportunity

 This can come in many guises. Perhaps you’ve got great potential but because you weren’t hired on a graduate intake stream you are barred from applying for the top jobs. Perhaps your circumstances make it difficult to attend the training programmes you’d need to progress. Perhaps you’re too young or too old, too black or too white, under qualified, overqualified, inexperienced or over experienced, a female in a male dominated set-up or vice versa. Even today there are so many discriminations that still prevail, despite the efforts of many to eliminate them. The simple truth is that it is clearly nonsense for any organisation to deny itself access to talent wherever it may lie.

These are but examples of common sources of external interference and I realise many of you reading this will have limited ability to influence them in your own organisations, Nevertheless, I would encourage you to grasp any opportunity to examine these areas to see whether they encourage or discourage high performance and make changes where you can.

We must accept that some of the issues we’ve spoken about in this section are a necessary part of the fabric of working life. In many ways its people’s reaction to them that is more crucial and that is what we’ll consider next.

What does Coaching for Performance actually mean?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles


What does Coaching for Performance actually mean?In my last few posts I’ve suggested our job as coaching managers is to convert as much potential as possible into performance, but of course performance means different things to different people. An actor will have a different view to an athlete and a team leader may have a different view to a team member when it comes to defining performance.

Work based performance

In the world of work it seems that performance usually amounts to being about one of five things:

  • Increasing revenue – sales or other income streams
  • Providing an excellent service
  • Reducing cost
  • Increasing or maintaining quality
  • Reducing time, e.g. in production lines or in bringing a new product to market

Each of these areas of performance can improve as a result of effective coaching, and often coaching is sought because things aren’t going well in some of these areas. But these very broad areas of work performance are really outcomes, i.e. the results and consequences of people’s ability to perform in a host of other areas, increasing personal productivity, increasing team productivity, generating leads and opportunities, making presentations, managing performance, and so the list goes on.

As coaches we need to be sure we have an agreed understanding with our coachees of what performance actually means in their role and how we would know if it had been improved. Also, if we want to establish a strong business case for coaching and measure its success then having a clearly defined and shared interpretation of performance is absolutely vital.

The gap between potential and performance

Living in the real world, one thing is certain: there will always be a gap between potential and performance (life wouldn’t be much fun if there wasn’t) and we need to look at ways of closing the gap so that more potential is converted into performance.

In the same way that we need to think carefully about judging potential and defining performance, we need also to recognise that the gap between the two could exist for a variety of reasons and there could be different ways of closing the gap.

Suppose you have a member of your team whose job it is to produce the monthly sales figures. This they do by using the table function in a word processing programme. Unfortunately, this programme does not have the flexibility to produce the ratios and percentages that you need to really understand whether sales are going well or not.

In terms of performance you need a detailed analysis and in terms of potential we can assume that as your team member can find their way around the word processing package they’d have the potential to use other similar programmes.

The performance gap here is to do with knowledge. If they knew how to use a spreadsheet programme they’d be able to produce a more useful set of monthly sales figures.

Such a performance gap is also straightforward to fill. Find a course or a web-based package that teaches how to use the spreadsheet programme and away you go. Simple.

Now suppose you have team member whose job it is to handle customer complaints. This they do in accordance with your organisation’s policy and procedures but always with a slightly abrasive edge. They have had all the necessary training and up until recently were one of your best performers on complaint handling. Lately though there seems to have been an increase in escalated complaints and other team members are getting tired of having to sweep up.

Here the performance gap is much less obvious and unlikely to be closed by sending your team member on refresher training. In fact, that would just make things worse. The gap here is a subtle one concerning attitude or state of mind and needs a similarly subtle response.

In these situations we need to recognise that the gap between potential and performance doesn’t need filling it needs shrinking. In other words, we need to remove the things that interfere with potential being converted into high performance.

In his Inner Game series, coaching pioneer Tim Gallwey neatly expresses this idea as an equation:

PERFORMANCE = Potential – interference

And we’ll pick up on this next time.