Posts Tagged ‘Coaching’

Sorry it’s been a while

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Thoughts from that Coaching Bloke

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Hi there

Hi there

I think it was Oscar Wilde who once said “stories of my demise are much exagerated” or something along those lines.

It’s been more than 60 days since I posted here; you must have been wondering what’s happened to me. Or more likely, you’re far to busy with your own life to notice that there’s been no posts or newsletters from me in a while.

In fact it’s this very fact I’ve been musing on for the last couple of months.

I started my newsletter in 2006 and withour doing much to promote it I now have a subscriber list of about 4000 which I think is great. The format has remained largely unchanged in that I like to put a hints and tips type article in first followed by dates of any upcoming talks or training and I’ve always finished with a ‘funny’.

Lately though my ‘open’ rates have dropped a lot and I’ve been thinking about why that might be:

  • You don’t have time to read it
  • Your inbox is full of newsletters and other stuff
  • Your weapons grade strength firewall is kicking it out

Of course there is also the very real possibility that I no longer have anything useful, relevant, intersting or amusing to say to you. I’m prepared to acknowledge that this may be the case.

Added to this is the fact that the way we all consume information has changed radically even since 2006. Tweets and status updates give us enough to know whether a link is worth activating. Groups on LinkedIn and similar give us an opportunty to interact and get involved rather than just passively absorbing news.

At the time of writing I don’t know what I’m going to change or how I’m going to change it, but I’m not going to continue sending information to people that’s not useful to them.

I would love some comments here on what I’ve set out and if you could share your preferences on how you like to consume information these days, they would be very welcome too.


How I wrote my first book

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Thoughts from that Coaching Bloke

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Coaching in a Week

Coaching in a Week

People are often fascinated to learn that I’ve written a book. I guess it’s one of those things that most people think about doing at one time or another. I’m often asked, “Which Literary Agent did you use?” or “How long did you have to spend on the Writer’s Training Courses you see advertised in newspapers?”

The truth is that I discovered that ignorance can indeed be bliss. Or, more accurately, obstacles that you do not know exist don’t hold you back.

I’ve always been an avid reader of business books and had built up quite a number from Hodder and Stoughton’s “Success in a Week” series. I had Project Management in a Week and Time Management in a Week and I knew there were dozens more titles too. I did notice though that there was nothing on coaching in the series.

I could do that, I thought. I wonder who I should talk to. Not realising that there were even such things as literary agents, etc. I did the simple thing and phoned Hodder’s main switchboard and asked to be put through to someone who would let me write a book on coaching. I was handled with great sensitivity by the switchboard operator who I’m sure gets hundreds of such calls from crack-pot, would-be authors and eventually found myself talking to a commissioning editor.

He suggested that I write a synopsis and a sample chapter and they’d take it from there. I said I’d do that and then went and looked up synopsis in my dictionary.

To cut to the chase, they liked what I produced and I got the gig. I wrote Coaching in a Week over a 6 month period whist juggling the day job too. I’ve since gone on to write three more and they’re all available from my website and all good booksellers (always wanted to say that)

Getting the go ahead to write my first book was a great lesson on the power of taking action and just doing something to get started, I encourage all my coaching clients to similarly take first steps.

By the way, if you’re ever in a bookshop in North East England and you see a little old lady pulling my books to the front of the shelves, leave her alone. That’s my Mum and she’s doing a fabulous job!

Do you make these five team coaching mistakes?

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

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To me, to you...

To me, to you...

As those of you who have attended my programmes will know, I consider the development of high-performing, work-based teams to be coaching’s greatest challenge. The doubts, fears and confusions around which we coach individuals are magnified and multiplied in teams by the nature of the relationships amongst its members.

There is more to coaching in teams than I could (or should) ever cover in a short article, so for now let’s just highlight some of the common pitfalls.

Creating ambiguous goals

Some team members will be concerned with quality: doing the best job possible. Other team members will be concerned with output: getting the job done at speed. Some team members will simply be concerned with outdoing another team and some team members will not be concerned with anything.

It’s hard to reconcile these differing views in terms of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ but we must use coaching to find out individual drivers and motivations and then to get agreement to a common set of team goals. It may be impossible to get consensus on what the goals should be, but individuals will subordinate their individual views in favour of team goals if they can see the rationale.

Failing to deal with moving goal posts

It is naive in the extreme to think that goals won’t change. Shifting goal posts is as much a part of working life as dodgy coffee and pointless meetings. The job of the team coach is to acknowledge the frustration that changing goal posts causes and then to refocus the team on processes as quickly as possible. Let me explain. Whether the goal is to sell one hundered widgets or two hundred it can only be achieved through the process of good client relations and product knowledge. Whether the goal is to deliver the project by the end of June or end of March, it’s about the processes of planning, monitoring risks and dependencies, securing sign-off and so on.

Over communication

I participated in countless staff surveys in my corporate life and there was never a time when the results didn’t indicate dissatisfaction with communication. The management response to this was invariably to do more communicating; more memos and emails, more meetings and quality groups, more pamphlets and brochures. This usually was counter productive because what was needed was not more communication but better communication.

This means enough communication to get the message across and then leaving people to get on with it. Too much communication creates ‘white noise’, It also creates confusion and sees the team wasting energy explaining it all to each other.

Dealing poorly with changes in team membership

Most people know Tuckman’s model of team development and its four stages of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Less well known is the fifth stage of Mourning. In other words dealing properly with the upset even the best performing teams experience when the make up changes. People can quite literally ‘mourn’ the previous set up. Ironically, where our team coaching has been successful and we have created a close-knit, high performing team, such losses can be felt most keenly.

Where possible I recommend that people be allowed to move on from a team gradually rather than suddenly. This gives everyone a chance to adjust and enables the knowledge of the departing member to be disseminated to those that remain. A similarly careful approach is needed when inducting new team members so everyone can forge new relationships and move on from “It’s not the same now that Johnny isn’t here”.

Not valuing diversity

Talk of diversity these days tends to focus on age, gender, race and the whole equal opportunities agenda. But here I mean the diversity that comes from having a team made up of people with different strengths and weaknesses. A team with a wide range of talents and abilities that can come to the fore when facing different challenges. A team of University graduates will face every problem like….University graduates. A team with as many GCSEs in woodwork as PHDs in Engineering is likely to be more flexible, creative and innovative.

Most work teams achieve their targets with some degree of success or they would be disbanded, but they fail to really achieve their potential because they are not coached beyond the Storming and Norming stages where so many teams get stuck.