Getting ‘STUFF’ done

By | Education, Leadership Toolbox

There are a few recurring themes when I’m coaching people.  One of those is about ‘Time Management’.  We could get into discussions on the practicalities (lists, urgent vs important).  We could argue that time is not something that can be actively managed – it has to be about what we do within the confines of that dimension. We could get into philosophical conversations about the meaning of life, work and ultimate purpose.  Lets leave all that for another day.

I have been reading a neat little book by Andy Buck about leadership in education and he made mention of this video.  It’s only about 5 minutes, (so it is a good investment in time, and allows us one last shot at procrastinating!)

Enjoy it…

SPACE – Definitely not the final frontier for learning

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Education, Leadership Toolbox, Personal Development

Space – (Definitely NOT the final frontier for learning!)

 

Yesterday I attended an interesting conference on Critical Leadership.  In just a short space of time we touched on many topics which challenge us as leaders.  One of the themes centred on how we keep formal learning going in our day-to-day jobs once we return from the buzz of workshops.  This is a topic very close to my heart.

Four points stick in my mind as crucial for continued learning:

–        We need to open spaces for conversation

–        We need to listen and empower

–        We need to foster constant curiosity

–        We need to enable conversations

If I could have created a word cloud from the speakers yesterday morning, I think that SPACE would have featured in the centre in huge letters.  It’s something that we just don’t really have in our busy lives, busy jobs and busy careers.  Yet how can we see what is happening if we don’t make a space to understand what is around us?  How can we start to get these four points into action if we don’t have ‘space’?

Another phrase which would have being pretty obvious in the word cloud would have been CRITICAL FRIEND. (And underneath that I would have posted ‘constructive challenge).

This is all great metaphorical chat, but what do I mean in practical terms?  OK, please stay with me on this…..

Creating a SPACE, means we can give valuable time to reflection.

Reflection is an increasingly well accepted and understood ‘tool’ for deep learning. Taking the time to really think about our experiences means that we can gain new and useful perspectives.  When we reflect, we can create some structure for our thought processes, use positive questioning to get deeper understanding and see the small but powerful changes that accumulate to lead to our success.

How often do you get to the end of a working day and feel that you have achieved nothing?  I think most of us have been there at some time, but even on those days, if you took just ten minutes out (sitting in the car before you drive home, walking the dog, cleaning the goldfish bowl – whatever…..) and identified the smallest thing, the tiniest positive achievement for the day, I am sure there would be something.  It might not be something that you would see as directly relevant to your role, but think again.  When you showed someone a quick move on the computer (that you do without even thinking about it) – that could have a lasting benefit.  When you made that difficult call, but still didn’t reach the right person – at least you have started climbing that fearsome rockface.  When you answered the door for someone, even if they should have done it, it gave you a moment to let the blood back into your legs after sitting for hours at the computer.  If you set up the template for a new spreadsheet, but didn’t enter any data – well, it’s one thing less for tomorrow.  In those mundane examples we’ve covered well-being, support and encouragement shared learning, and action just for a start!  Don’t dismiss the small stuff, it just might be valuable.

So, when I sit down with you as your coach (for want of a better label!), we create SPACE.

First we set some ground rules.  One of these is that we recognise that this time is your time to do with as you choose.  It will not be interrupted, cancelled, driven by me, scripted, or disrespected. It is golden time, a rare oasis away from hustle and bustle. I will guide our conversation and challenge your thinking when necessary. I will hold you to account for your planned actions but most important of all, I will be facilitating your reflection and helping you to embed esoteric learning into practical actions and tools.

Go on – find your SPACE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am your coach..

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Personal Development

Remember this: as your coach I am there to help you. If it’s a technical question, I will answer it, so you don’t have to post on social media or spend time searching.  If I don’t know the answer – I’ll find a way of getting it.  (I won’t guess! I’m a scientist by trade, so I like a good evidence-base).  If it’s something more human or intangible, that’s fine, I’m there to support you.

It might sound odd, but you could think of me as a kind of ‘Professional Friend’. I might not be the person who knows your inner secrets and gives you a hug when things go wrong, but I am the person who is keen to see you on your feet again.  I’ll be helping you to see clearly (again), helping you to recognise and define your goals and seeing you head off onto a path where you can feel confident, get your mojo back and achieve the things that you so want to do.

I am your coach, but this doesn’t end when our meetings finish.  I am there – on the phone, at my keyboard and I’m always happy to help you via any (reasonable!) medium. Instant messages, texts, phone calls, skype, e mail. Oh, and let’s not forget – I love a good cup of coffee, so meeting up is always a winner.

But, you know what?  You don’t even need to have a problem. You don’t need to feel down to get in touch – you might have something exciting to tell me: I won a new contract, the new job’s going really well, I won a rosette at the horse show last weekend.  Being a coach means that I can take vicarious pleasure: seeing the success of others is great.

You Are Amazing!!

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Personal Development

You are amazing.                       You are unique.                         You are you.

So, I sometimes start off workshops or coaching groups by asking people to consider why they are amazing.  I don’t ask them if they are amazing, because I know that they are.

It’s a difficult question for most people because we grow up looking at role models and seeing what people around us do – and frequently it leaves us feeling that there is still more to do for us to emulate them.

That might be true, but what we forget is that we have our own personal bits of amazing-ness that they don’t have.  We rarely see the people who look to us a role models because nobody ever says ‘Hi there, you are my role model’.  It would probably feel rather creepy (for us) and maybe embarrassing for them. So, here is a story for you; if you’ve met me, you will almost certainly have heard me mention my Mother.  She is amazing.  Not just now (as I am old enough to appreciate it), but when we were younger too.  She is strong and determined but unconditionally loving. She is compassionate and gives her time freely to many causes. She is busy. She takes care of herself.  When family focus was on me and my brother, she made her own clothes with designer labels so that she could have the best clothes even if they weren’t from a shop. She worked hard in a hospital and worked hard for the family. She found time, even then to do things for other groups as a volunteer. If I can add to peoples lives like she has and if I can grow older gracefully, elegantly and by keeping busy like her, I shall be proud. She is my role model. Yet it was only last week that I told her.

So, what makes you amazing? It might not be something really obvious, maybe it was something you did for someone years ago that made a difference for them though it was just part of your nature.  Maybe you are brilliant with spreadsheets; able to run fast; fab at fixing stuff; good at getting things done.  Did you visit an unusual place that left you in awe and wanting to tell other people? Did you complete a plan in difficult circumstances? Have you overcome a tough time and come out the other side smiling again? Did you do something that you thought you could never do?  Have you kept an unusual pet?  Did you make someone laugh this week? The list goes on, but you get the idea? What makes you amazing might be something quite small, but which makes you unique.

What’s the point of this? Well, a common request in my coaching conversations is to help improve self-belief. As in so many instances, it is really about searching to find those things that you know about yourself but which have got forgotten, lost or hidden under other things. Once we start to delve, you’ll find those bits of amazing-ness for yourself and the only challenge then is to say them aloud and recognise them for what they really are.

Go on, try it.  Think of something amazing about yourself and just tell the cat/dog/goldfish/houseplant. Simply saying it out loud is a great first step and might just give you that initial, positive step towards realising who you really are.

The Praise Sandwich

By | Leadership Toolbox

We’ve all heard about this: how to give feedback.

I was always brought up to avoid food fights, (though school raspberry jelly was good for not much else), and recently I was the victim of just such a sandwich flung unceremoniously in my direction.

I wasn’t sure if this was feedback badly done, or whether I really was a complete disaster in the work I’d just completed.  In the cold light of a new day, and with my rational hat more firmly on my head, I am fairly sure that it was the former.  After all, I know that I can do my job, even if not always perfectly.

So, this got me thinking…..

Just why was I so aggravated by this horrible sandwich?  I think it comes down to something really simple: honesty.

We all know that trust and honesty are foundation stones in any relationship and tinkering with these building blocks is going to weaken the whole structure.  Don’t get me wrong – we should not be brutal, discourteous, thoughtless or undiplomatic in what we say, but there are ways of getting a message over and there are ways that messages really shouldn’t be delivered.

So, what is wrong with the ‘Praise Sandwich’?

First, the negative feedback, (criticism, or suggestion for change) can get lost in the crusts of the sandwich.  When the praise is too much, too gushing or focussing on major parts of a job or role, then this is what we will hear. The critical feedback will be a thin layer of sour jam that gets lost.  This is completely pointless and would certainly leave me wondering why I’m suddenly getting all this praise.  A bit is lovely, but lots of it?  Things that happen anyway, part of the job – why are they suddenly getting a mention?  I’m suspicious, confused. Was the criticism the important bit, or the praise? I’m wondering what the hidden agenda holds.  Oh, and by the way, was there something you wanted me to do differently?  Happy to try but I’m not really sure if it was OK or not….

Second; if the praise is thin, it will not be authentic. Any of us will see through that and head straight for the filling. There’s a double whammy here because not only am I going to be fed up that the job wasn’t right, but the giver of my feedback isn’t being honest.  They want to give me criticism but they are hiding it in something meaningless.  Why are they doing this? It will make little difference by now if the criticism is constructive or not; the damage to trust has already been done.

We don’t want to write our first novel and be praised for our handwriting on the cover letter. We don’t want to design an amazing new machine to be told it’s a nice colour. Get the idea?

So, next time you are giving feedback, think about this.  Identify the elements that really matter and allow for small differences. Respect the person getting the feedback, be kind but be clear. Be honest but positive.

Social Media, a Game for People to Sell more……?

By | Business

social-mediaSocial media is a way to sell more social media.

Social media does not sell more of your products and services.

Social media takes significant time, but there is no evidence for an acceptable return on the time investment.

DISCUSS……

A quick scan of Google (and a few abstracts from academic articles) doesn’t help a great deal.  As a business owner what I really want to know is how much additional turnover I can gain from investing in social media.

Social media gurus (who DO make money from selling the idea of social media) turn the idea of ROI into just about anything that they like and it no longer means ‘return on investment’.  We are all drawn into discussions on ‘Attention’, ‘Interaction’, ‘Velocity’, ‘Conversation Index’,  and for websites- ‘click throughs’ and so on and on.

My question is still not answered.

OK, so how about brand.  Is it all part of that far less tangible idea of brand and reputation?  Do we need to just ‘get our name out there’?  I return to the old idea of the sales hook, you get someone’s attention, you engage them with information that interests them, persuade them that they want to buy in, then close the sale.  Social media might well catch someone’s attention, but the real trick is to engage them and hold them there.  It might do. But the final parts of the sales process are already disappearing into the mists of the day.  Remember that car salesman?  He knows only too well that if he doesn’t close the sale when he meets his customers, then there is a slim chance of closing the deal. So I suspect it is with social media – it just gets us part way.

I’m still not convinced.

“Ah”, shout the gurus, “but you need to ‘do’ social media because all your competitors do it”.  Hmm, well, I still have a problem here because they aren’t the same as us and anyway, that doesn’t make it right does it?  We become followers, (An unplanned pun there!), not leaders.  We want to be at the front, changing ideas not running to keep up with the rest.  So it’s going to take one of the big boys to be brave enough to say NO to social media. Well, maybe.

So, I’m opening up this question – ‘how much extra revenue does social media bring to YOUR business?

I’m waiting to hear from you…. 

 

 

 

People are central to our corporate strategy…….

By | Business

I hate that title because it is a contradiction in terms – linking people so closely to something that sounds like a book or file of papers.  Perhaps I’d be happier if it said, “they are central to our success”, or better still, “to our development”.

It’s often said that people are the critical part of a business, but how often is that ‘value’ really played out?

Type ‘People are central to our business’ into Google and you’ll get just under 50 million results.  On the front page we see some major corporations, but how many companies actually live this phrase I wonder? Exactly what does it mean?

Of course, businesses need people just in order to operate, but we are really considering how people can add value and help the business towards success. This could be a v.e.r.y.  l.o.n.g. article, but let’s stick to the idea of developing engagement and skill through coaching.

In conversation with a leading educationalist recently, she was telling me how the value of coaching lies in its bespoke nature and its continuance.  Compare this with training courses and it a bit like the old story of employee benefits: the long term value of an appreciative working culture compared to the short term one of a raised salary.

Investing in your people can mean many things and often involves direct financial resource (paying for it!) as well as indirect resources (cost of time out for example). Offering people the chance to learn and develop means that you are giving them special consideration and this is a powerful motivator. Think how good this can be over a period of time….Think how quickly it could be forgotten after a training course.  (And then compare the relative returns on investment!) Imagine the opportunity to deal with challenges when they occur and have someone there to help you think through them? Compare it with a course…..now which ‘tool’ was I shown for dealing with this problem?

This is just food for thought…. what do you think?  Read More