Embrace Confusion

Stop and think!  How much of your waking hours do you spend being confused?  Or puzzled? Or maybe you prefer to use the the word ‘uncertain’?  If the answer is hardly at all, I would suggest you get yourself more confused, more often.

Being certain, being sure, having it all figured out, is not conducive to learning and growth. We are primed for learning when we are at the edge of of our knowledge. When our beliefs are challenged.  When the bubbles of our old certainties are popped. Continue reading


Resist the temptation to be clever

I have often been asked by people who are unfamiliar with coaching, “How can you coach people in areas that you have no experience or knowledge of?”

I sometimes use this as an opportunity to help people obtain a clearer understanding of what coaching actually is.  I spend time explaining that coaching is not the same as mentoring. That it is not about specific knowledge or skills transfer. In fact, it can actually be an advantage to ‘not know’, as it makes it easier for the coach to ask totally naive questions with no pre-judgement.

source: events.stanford.edu

source: events.stanford.edu

To emphasise this point, I will often allude to the possible dangers that can emerge when you are too close to an area. When the coach is carrying their own ‘baggage’ around, they can slip into expressing their own views, or ask questions loaded with judgement. This can be one of the biggest challenges facing the internal coach. I worked as a coach within a corporate environment for a number of years. It was hugely rewarding, and offered a tremendous opportunity to be part of great change within the organisation. However, I know from personal experience, that when certain issues arose during coaching sessions, where I as the coach had specific knowledge about something, it presented me with a dilemma. I could, and sometimes did, inject a piece of knowledge that would help clarify some confusion, and help move the client past a particular obstacle.  Indeed, it would be wrong (and could be argued as unethical) not to. However, it is important to recognise that when you are doing that, you are no longer being a coach, and it is very important to tell the client that, so as to avoid any confusion about your role as a coach.

There is a real danger however, particularly for a new coach (as I found to my cost on occasions), that you may slip in and out of your coach role too many times, or for too long. The relationship may even morph into one that is no longer ‘coaching’, and into something else entirely. You may find yourself Continue reading

Are your people ready to change?

If you’re in a bad situation, don’t worry it’ll change.  If you’re in a good situation, don’t worry it’ll change.  ~  John A. Simone, Sr.  

At a time when most businesses are seeking ways to emerge from the effects of the recession, and get themselves back on the road to economic growth, one inevitable question their leaders will all face will be, “What things are going to have to change around here to start us moving again?”  

  • Will the strategy and tactics they have been deploying during the crunch be the same ones they need to drive growth?  
  • How do they shift mindsets on their management teams from ‘cost avoidance’ to ‘growth and profit’? 
  • Do they need different types of people in their company to take them in a different direction?
  • Will their own leadership style need to be different as they move forward?
  • Are they even the right leader to take the company forward and be successful?

Some of these questions can be extremely daunting, and will challenge even the most competent leaders. However, much will depend on how the workforce has been led during the period of recession. 

Have people been continuously aware that this day was coming, or will it come as a surprise to them  that they are now expected to do things differently, think differently, perhaps adopt new practices.  Remember, even unpleasant circumstances become comfortable after a while, and people will resist moving away from the ‘way things are’ even if they are promised a better future.polar-bear-ice

It’s not enough to simply promise things will get better and hope they will change.  One major reason for this, we now know, is because of the way our brains are organised. Regular patterns of thinking and behaviour become ‘wired’ at the neural level. It is certainly not a trivial matter of expecting people to one day waken up and operate as if they had a different wiring pattern. Not even after the most rousing and stirring ‘all-hands’ kick-off event !!  Our brains need to have new connections created (and old connections disused and atrophied) over a period of time in order for new patterns of thinking and behaviour to take root. New visions, positive futures, different expectations, alternate rewards, all help generate these new connections, and ultimately, different behaviours.

That’s why the best leaders Continue reading

Selfless Leadership

Think back to an occasion when you earned yourself a new leadership position, perhaps a hard-earned promotion within an established corporate, or a great new opportunity with an ambitious go-getting young company. Maybe it was your first management role, maybe you had climbed the ladder and it was a C-suite position.

What was your first thought?  (I mean after your well-deserved celebrations had subsided).  When you first sat down and had a moment of quiet reflection on your own, perhaps in your new corner office, what went through your mind?

How many of you actually let your mind drift into the future and a time when you would be leaving this role; the day when your work would be done and time for you to move on? How long would that take, before you could leave the patch in a better state than when you joined, with better equipped people; new leaders who had developed themselves into your space?  How many of you actually set a target date for your own removal as one of your top measures of success?

source: billarends bit.ly/XYDsiG

source: billarends bit.ly/XYDsiG

Continue reading

When will we stop just surviving?

We become what we focus on.  The surest way to create a habit (for good or for bad) is to focus relentlessly on repeating the same patterns of behaviour and thinking.  And that’s what worries me.  Our companies and organisations have been ploughing pretty much the same furrow for a long time now.

The malaise that has hung over the economy for several years has created a series of habits within our executive population that has seen them become ‘expert’ in running affairs in a very particular way.  Yes, houses needed to be put in order, cost reductions (probably overdue in some areas) were necessary, educating the entire workforce in seeking efficiencies was sensible, and asking tough questions about what was core business for the future, have all been necessary and useful exercises.

So, what’s my concern?  Well, let’s imagine fictitious Company A.  Here, people have stayed in this mindset for too long, to the exclusion of other ways of thinking, a habit has been formed, which has become harder and harder to break. The senior executives and middle managers have become obsessed by cost reduction spreadsheet reviews, incidental expenditure policy changes, efficiency targets that become embroiled in inter-department disputes about double-counting savings, and the policing of travel bans. Accompanying this ‘inward-looking’ focus they have been swamped by demands for more and more metrics, reports and updates to satisfy themselves, and every layer of management, that things are on track, and people are doing what is expected of them. Of course, this has generated an atmosphere which is lacking in trust, resulting in duplicated reporting, with departments wanting to make sure that their own house is in order before sharing numbers to the wider organisation where they may be exposed.

I make no apology, for painting such a depressing picture of what I suggest is the reality of  day to day life in companies, and government departments, up and down countries, in various parts of the world at this time. This all amounts to ‘Managing for Survival’, when what is called for is a mindset of ‘Leading to Grow’.

You may even recognise some of this in your own company or in your own behaviour?  It’s my guess that many executives and middle managers have lost focus and believe that how they are operating is ‘how things are meant to be’. It has taken everyone down in to the engine-room of the ship, leaving no-one on deck or on the bridge, looking out for new land, or blue skies. It has become Continue reading