CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 12 March 2002

Brought to you by the Brefi Group: "Developing your business through strategy, facilitation and executive coaching – internationally."

Web site: http://www.brefigroup.co.uk
Editor: Richard Winfield, rwinfield@brefigroup.co.uk
Subscribers: 1,800 copies, worldwide

Welcome to this issue of CorporateCoach – a free newsletter for senior executives and teams in organisations interested in using coaching to improve corporate performance. Please share it with colleagues and contacts who will benefit from reading it.

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HOT NEWS 1: We are pleased to welcome Perry Burns as an associate, based in London.

Perry has a background in sales, with a particular expertise in telecommunications, IT and finance. His coaching interests include sales, developmental coaching, negotiation, presentation and facilitation. Having worked in the financial sector, computers and telecommunications, his last post was as regional sales director for London at Ernst & Young.

Perry is married with three teenage daughters.


HOT TIP: The Brefi Group web site is packed with information – over 350 pages including 80 pages of downloadable forms and learning resources. Remember to use the site search facility. You may be surprised just how much you will find about what you are looking for.


CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Significant decisions
  2. Coaching notes: Preventing your employees from failing (1)
  3. Book review: The Faster Learning Organisation
  4. Case study: Applying the neurological levels


1.     Editorial: Significant Decisions

In the early 1970s I worked on a project for London Transport to track the position of buses on London's Route 11. This was a long route crossing London from Liverpool Street to Hammersmith and was notorious for traffic delays causing buses to arrive in bunches – a banana route. "None come and then three come at once!"

I am sorry to say that CorporateCoach is getting a bit like that. The March issue is running into April and then, hopefully the April issue will follow rapidly behind.

Before I worked for London Transport I was a driver of one of 20 coaches carrying 500 students by land between Britain and India – a thirteen week round trip of cultural events. We stopped overnight on the way out at a campsite in Istanbul, where one of the definitive moments in my life took place.

We were sitting around a fire singing and chatting to Colonel Gregory, who was the organiser of this Commonwealth Expedition. Someone passed him a paper bag of mixed sweets. He put in his hand, took out a sweet and put it into his mouth. I was amazed.

For me, choosing a sweet was a decision. It required attention, some thought. Maybe only a moment, but it required a decision. How could Greg just put in his hand with no attention to what he chose?

Well, of course, the choice of sweet was insignificant to him and justified no thought.

I wonder how much time and attention is given to decisions, whose outcome is insignificant. Indeed, how much attention is given to events that have happened and cannot now be affected.

And, when there is a shortage of time, how much time is given to less significant decisions at the expense of much more important matters? Examine a typical meeting, board meeting or committee meeting and I am sure you will find some examples.

I came across a recent example in a company which moved to new premises and needed a telephone system. Much time was devoted to obtaining quotations and analysing the differences. Clearly, good value is important. But the difference between the systems offered was insignificant. The delay in making a choice was significant – staff could not operate effectively and sales were lost.

If you wish to be effective, differentiate between decisions of different significance and concentrate on those that matter.

I am pleased to welcome a visiting writer for this issue and the next. Carole Nicolaides tells us how to prevent our employees from failing.

We are continuing to expand our regional coverage and welcome two new associates, Perry Burns and Colin Eveleigh. We have been pleased to include them in our associates group meetings. Details of Colin in the next issue.


HOT NEWS 2: Our on-line management skills analysis at /feedback/introduction.do has attracted more than 1,500 users. If you haven't used it yet why not check it out now. You will find separate training needs analysis forms for Personal Effectiveness, Managing Communications, Managing People, Effective Directorship and Corporate Culture. Complete one and you will receive an instant analysis, together with a comparison with the results of others who have already used them.


2.     Coaching notes: Preventing your employees from failing (1)

Have you ever noticed what happens when you become suspicious of and unsatisfied with an employee?s performance? Whether you realise it or not, you begin to create a "failure mindset" for them. With time, you stop believing in your employee and a cycle starts that revolves around low morale, low performance and deterioration of performance.

A chain reaction begins to happen with your employees once your mentality changes toward them. First they might turn in a project that has been completed improperly. In response, you reprimand them. Their self-confidence decreases which leads to a reduction in productivity. The more you discipline and chastise them, the more their motivation is undermined. When people perceive chronic disapproval or lack of confidence and appreciation they tend to shut down. While they may not verbalise to you what is happening, this behavioral phenomenon manifests itself in several ways. The syndrome is costly. But if you recognize the symptoms in time, you – as a progressive leader – are fully capable of rectifying the situation and redeeming that employee.

Let me provide an example for you. John was the President of a small company and a client of mine. He hired a new controller for his company who seemed to be a sharp, loyal and ambitious professional. Two months into the relationship John started doubting the capabilities of his controller. As we were having lunch, he communicated to me his frustration. When I asked what went wrong he answered that the controller was still not up to speed and that he failed to prepare a very important report for him last month. I asked John if he had communicated or at least found out what happened with the controller. His answer was, "I hired him for that. He was supposed to know that I needed that report for my board of directors."

You see how easy it is to create this failure mindset? With some coaching help, John was able to see what he was creating through turbulent perceptions. He communicates his expectations with his controller now and they are able to resolve issues before they accumulated into a berg of mistrust and criticism.

Before we discuss the possible solutions, let?s take time to look at several things many managers try that actually make the situation worse.

  1. Requiring approval before making decisions. Becoming stricter with your troubled employee will only aggravate the situation. With employees who suffer from low self-esteem, having someone looking over their shoulder every step of the way is stressful and distracting. By allowing them to work on their own, you are breaking the thought pattern of "failure" and displaying the trust you have in your employee.
  2. Watching the employee at meetings very closely. This is one of the worst things to do. Guarding every word that comes out of your employee?s mouth and making negative comments in front of a group of people is very demeaning. It is also considered a "power play" and is regarded as tactless and cowardice behavior.
  3. Avoiding face-to-face confrontations. Instead of dealing directly face-to-face with your employees you may choose to communicate your dissatisfaction or concern via email. Don?t fall into that temptation. Progressive leaders make the time and effort to "do the right thing" and discuss issues in person with their employees. Granted, these discussions are no fun for anyone. However, the fact that you made time in your schedule to speak with your employee goes a long way toward showing you support them and are available to them.
  4. Allowing your perceptions to prevail. Most of the time our perceptions about a situation are so strong that they end up becoming our reality – whether they?re true or not. That can create turbulence and a string of bad decisions. During all your dealings with a troubled employee, remember that – until you have discussed a particular issue with him or her – you are basing decisions on your perception and not necessarily the facts.
  5. Low expectations. If you expect too little from your employee and you do not present new challenges, your employee will come to doubt his or her own thinking and your confidence in them. When they lose the confidence of their manager, only negative things follow.

In addition to the "don?ts" of preventing your employees from failing, here are several preventative measures that will definitely help as well.

  1. Become aware of this self-fulfilling failure mindset and the possibility that you might be causing the problem. Look within yourself for causes and solutions before placing the burden of responsibility where it does not fully belong.
  2. Become actively involved with all your employees. Know what they are doing, what they are not doing. Ask questions, become personal and show that you care for them. At the beginning of your relationship talk frequently about priorities, goals and your vision.
  3. Stop categorising people. Sometimes, even from your enthusiasm about some of your star performers, you end up stereotyping your employees. A better method is to communicate that you believe in all of your people. Otherwise you take away the motivation that they can become the very best.
  4. Create a safe environment in which employees feel comfortable to discuss their performance and their relationships with their direct supervisors. Give them the freedom to ask questions and even challenge their managers.
  5. Discover what is missing. Even if you have the best performers in the world you need to constantly ascertain what has changed in your department and how to keep pace. Team members may need to upgrade their skills constantly. When you do this on a regular basis you will be able to determine if their poor performance is due to lack of skills or knowledge or if it is a behavioral problem.

One note in closing. I am not excluding the fact that you may have some employees that are simply not as good as you want them to be. I encourage you to find out what is really going on, communicate directly to them what your expectations are. Progressive leaders always take extra measures to prevent their employees from failing. After all, their success means your success!

Carole Nicolaides

Carole is President and Executive Coach of Progressive Leadership Inc who thrives on helping individuals and organizations discover and leverage their unique strengths. She also offers training and consulting in Knowledge Management and Leadership Development. Visit http://www.progressiveleadership.com for more info & subscribe to her FREE Ezine.


3.     Book review: The Faster Learning Organisation

The Faster Learning Organization by Bob Guns is one of the Warren Bennis Executive Briefing Series; "Read it in just two hours!" So it is also a faster learning book!

I have highlighted many parts in yellow, pink and blue according to relevance. It is packed with useful stuff, that I am happy to lift and use. It's all good stuff and I heartily recommend it as a resource.

The Faster Learning Organization is an easy read in which Bob Guns introduces the concept of the Faster Learning Organization or FLO™. Guns defines faster learning as "the process of figuring out more quickly than the competition what works better." – thereby linking learning to change, application, and improved individual and organisational performance. Very much what Brefi Group is all about!

This process enables the organisation to achieve and sustain competitive advantage – the ability to generate and maintain profit and market share. When your organisation knows what works better, Guns says, customers perceive your products or services as superior and consistently choose them over the competition's.

Faster learning requires: -

  1. Simpler, more efficient ways to learn
  2. Fewer steps in the learning process
  3. More attention paid to leveraging opportunities.

Focusing on faster learning also enhances an organisation's strategic capability so that it: -

  1. Acts more realistically
  2. Focuses more steadily on its vision
  3. Responds to industry changes more quickly than the competition.

Let me quote two examples: -

Quick test for a FLO

Does your organisation . .

  • Assess its strategic situation realistically?
  • Have a clear and motivating vision of itself as a FLO?
  • Respond quickly and effectively to competitive conditions?
  • Quickly convert information into valuable knowledge?
  • Have technology that's up to date?
  • Is it more innovative than its competition?
  • Does it confidently and capably handle change?
  • Enhance its performance through both incremental improvement and breakthroughs?
  • Operate its teams as micro-businesses?
  • Outperform its competition?

Developing openness

Openness to learning is a product of two forces: a person's self image and the relevance of the opportunity that the learning presents. In other words, if I'm not open to learning, my resistance means (1) I don't feel good about myself, so I don't think I can improve, and/or (2) the learning opportunity at hand doesn't seem relevant to my work, so I choose to ignore it.

So, a leader should explain not just what needs to be learned and how, but also why that learning is important. The best leaders are capable of providing not just challenge but also support. Stimulating leaders are able to change the levels of challenge and support they provide, depending on the needs of individual employees in particular situations.

The book also covers team learning, and modelling a faster learner.

It ends by identifying the various skills needed by executives, leaders, team members and individual learners.

This book is an easy read and an excellent reference. Read it once, then use it as a resource.

You may click here to buy The Faster Learning Organization. Or visit our books site for more ideas and recommendations.


4.     Technical tips: Applying the neurological levels

One of the most useful tools I use in my coaching and facilitation is the Neurological Levels model developed by Robert Dilts. I have been describing each level in different issues of the newsletter.

Recently Arthur Dawes and I ran a demonstration workshop for practice managers from local law firms. I thought you might be interested in their perception of a typical solicitors practice (firm of lawyers).

 Neurological Levels
Purpose

To uphold justice
To achieve fairness
To make "reasonable" money

Identity

We're the best
Status of being a solicitor

Beliefs

Partners keep money to themselves
Equity partners are always right
Other firms pay better
Client won't want to hear bad news

Competence

Very academic, technically focused
Paralegal factories
Fear of telling the truth
Poor at talking to clients about fees/debts
Low management/leadership

Behaviour

Clothes a mess (shirt hanging out)
Lack of concern for staff
Culture of overwork
Slow to return telephone calls

Environment

Quiet, untidy, inhibiting to clients
Files everywhere
Files overfull
Lack of staff facilities
Rarely open plan
Shortage of office equipment

This exercise took only half an hour and could be refined with more attention. In a real situation, the implications would be drawn out as the information is collected on a flip chart. In this case there are some obvious areas of concern with regard to the lawyers' relationship with both staff and clients.

If this were an actual firm, then the next stage would be to repeat the exercise for an ideal firm and notice the differences. What changes would move the organisation nearer to an ideal firm? What would they suggest?

Similarly, if we were dealing with an individual we would carry out the exercise for the individual and discuss how his or her results fitted with those of the organisation. Are they compatible? Could they fit better with changes?


The Google Toolbar

You can download the Google toolbar for free at http://toolbar.google.com. This puts Google on your browser and gives you various additional facilities like searching within a web site.


We aim to make the Brefi Group web site family the premier UK developmental site for teams and individuals in organisations, so do please send us your suggestions and requests for further development. And let us know what you think of this newsletter, and comment on the content.

THIS IS A FREE PUBLICATION! Please SHARE it willingly with a friend or colleague who could benefit from knowing more about corporate coaching.

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Brefi Group is a change management organisation that provides corporate coaching, consultancy, facilitation and training. We can also advise you an your Internet strategy and design web sites.

We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield:

Telephone: +44 (0) 7970 891 343
E-mail: rwinfield@brefigroup.co.uk