Stuck in a coaching rut? Shake it off!

“I‘ve got this stupid song in my head and I can’t get rid of it,” one of my kids said to me the other day.

“I’ve always got a song in my head,” I replied. And it’s true, I do. If you know me at all, you’ll know music is a very important aspect of my life.

For some reason, today’s song – or perhaps I should say ‘guilty pleasure’ – is Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. You know the one:

’Cause the players gonna play, (play, play, play play), and the haters gonna hate, (hate, hate hate, hate). I’m just gonna shake (shake, shake, shake, shake). Shake it off! Shake it off!

And it’s got me thinking about coaching.

No, really.

It’s got me thinking about coaching because at a seminar last week someone said to coach at your developmental edge, you’ve got to “shake off” your existing coaching paradigm. And that is when the song kinda lodged in my brain. Reflecting on their own self-development, they actually said something like this, “As a coach I need to develop reflexive self-awareness to go to the edge of my practice – to a place I’ve not been before, and yet intuitively I know I can. I need to shake off my own paradigm.”

Using creative devices for our own development

And so I thought about the song’s lyrics. It’s amazing how a creative device – such as a song, a picture or some sort of creative process – can shed new light on our thinking and self-reflection.

Consider this lyric from Shake it Off and think for a moment about how your coaching clients experience you as a coach:

Never miss a beat; Lightning on my feet; That’s what they don’t see.

Now consider the next stanza and think for a moment about how you experience yourself when coaching:

Dancing on my own; Make the moves up as I go; That’s what they don’t know.

That seems like flow to me, ease if you will. You are dancing in-the-moment, using your intuition to move to the beat emerging from the coaching dialogue, and your client doesn’t really know what you are doing, how much work you are doing or how much artistry is involved. Rather, they simply experience a great, helpful conversation. Going with the flow, making it up as you go along to suit the music; this is working at your edge.

The risk is that we play it safe

The risk is that we do not find this special place often enough, or even at all. Instead, from fear of being out of our depth, we reach for trusted coaching tools and techniques, or retreat into a defensive position – fight or flight, appease them, collude with them, interpret others’ behaviour from our own biases or slip into ‘rescue’ mode. This is not working at our edge. This is playing it safe.

Tips for working at your edge

Firstly, recognise this defence is a normal response to fear. Slow yourself down. Breathe. I use a mantra to centre and ground myself. Stay curious – be okay with not knowing. Notice what is happening and name it. Take responsibility for your shameful feelings of not being good enough.

You are good enough.

Shake off your coaching paradigm and try something different. You need to practice self-reflection to go to your edge. Take it to supervision – that’s the best place for developing reflexive practice. Supervision can help you build inner strength, see your blind spots and learn through shame.

Trust your intuition and know that you will be okay. Trust yourself.

Or as Ms Swift might say:

I got this music in my mind, singing it’s gonna be alright.

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And now you’ve got that stupid song stuck in your head, am I right?

Coaching others

How do you know how to choose the right executive coach for you?

How do you know how to choose the right executive coach for you?

Helpfully, we are now in a world where executive coaching is seen as an investment in organisational success. Gone are the days when you were told you needed a coach and that was not necessarily a good thing.  Unhelpfully, there are hundreds of coaching niches and thousands upon thousands of coaches out there, and there is no unified code or standard for executive coaching.  How do you know how to choose the right one for you?

Curiously, seeking guidance on this from that most ubiquitous source of information, the World Wide Web, yields a myriad of advice that seems to me to be somewhat skewed towards that particular giver of advice-who-just-so-happens-to-be-an-executive-coach themselves!

Before you read on I have something to declare: I am too an executive coach.

However my advice to you is simple: Use you head, heart and gut to make your choice.

Use your head

Your coach needs be able to work with the outcomes you are seeking. For example, it’s no use selecting a business development coach if you have writers’ block. Look for someone with proven experience in the areas you want to work on, evidenced by testimonials, who can evidence relevant successes in the real world and evidence over what timeframe that happened. Then understand how they will get to know you, your context and your challenges. This may be someone from the same industry background if that is important to you, or maybe not; sometimes a fresh perspective can be, well, refreshing.

More importantly understand their process for understanding you: for example, are you going to be inundated with psychometric questionnaires (high focus on the coach’s process), or simply listened to (low focus on the coach’s process, high focus on you)? You might also want to know your coach is in coaching themselves and that they have qualifications and/or accreditation from one of the coaching bodies such as the International Coach Federation, the Association for Coaching, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council or the Academy of Executive Coaching (other coaching bodies are available!) Such bodies have codes of ethics such as requiring coaches to be under professional supervision.

Listen to your heart

Coaches are there to help you make better choices in whatever you are seeking to change. Different coaches will do this in very different ways; they might work anywhere on a spectrum from non-directive through to directive; from purely accepting you as you are by listening deeply to you, through to confronting your challenges and helping you learn how to learn new ways of doing and being; from gently evoking change within you to robustly provoking you to do things differently.

That your needs will be matched by their process is very important. If you choose an accepting/listening coach, you are likely to have some great conversations, but they might not have much purpose. Choosing a provocative coach may be too challenging. This is a careful balance that just using your head will not resolve. You will only work though this by talking with them or having a sample coaching session from them. Look out for their ability to listen deeply and accept you as you are, go beyond listening by helping you face the challenges you have, and enable you to make better choices.

That coaches must keep your conversations confidential is a must-have. As is building trust between you. The best way to assess the relationship you seek with your coach, is to meet with them perhaps several times before committing to the contract. If you only use your head, you might miss whether the chemistry is right or not.

Go with your gut

Not all coaching relationships gel. Coaches often hear, “My last coach didn’t work out, I should have gone with my instinct.” So yes, use your head and listen to your heart.

How do you know how to choose the right executive coach for you?  Ultimately something down inside your gut will let you know you’ve picked the right coach.

Choose wisely.

10 things I wish I had known before starting my independent consulting and coaching career

Since 2014, I have had what I consider to be a successful independent career. It has been a rollercoaster and I wouldn’t change it for any alternative. I’m currently a self-employed OD consultant, executive coach and facilitator, a part-time lecturer, an occasional DJ, a volunteer Street Wizard and a trustee of a small charity. Just now, I’m also launching my new coach supervisor brand, Grow the Coach.

Setting up your own business and all that goes with it can be daunting. I did it six years ago and with Grow the Coach I’m doing it again now. Here are the 10 things I wish someone had told me as I look back over my journey so far…

Who is you target client, what do they need and what can you do for them?

  1. Be VERY clear about the skills and experience you have to offer. How can you best utilise them to solve problems for potential clients in a way that allows you to spend time doing more of the work you most enjoy?
  2. Be EVEN MORE clear about who your ideal client is – if you target everyone, you target no one. You can spend many long days, weeks and even months chasing the wrong clients.
  3. If you can match client needs with your offer, you can decide what this means for how you work: part-time, contract, interim, consultant, etc. It may be several similar roles, or a mix of different roles at the same time. This mix is likely to change over time, so be prepared to be flexible. I was staunchly a “freelance consultant” when I started. I’ve since been an associate for other firms, an employee, part-time interim, won bids with my own brand and sub-contracted work to others, taken on a zero-hours contract, volunteered, offered pro bono professional services and now I’m establishing a self-employed brand with no company. You do what is right for you and your prospective clients.

Working hours and pricing

  1. Start by calculating many hours you are committed to work and how many of these are likely to be paid. Then think about your charging rates. How much income do you need to live? Divide this by the number of paid hours you expect to work and see how the resulting hourly or day rate compares to the market. Another method is to take your headline final annualised full-time equivalent salary and knock two zeros off the end. That’s roughly your starting day rate. £50k translates to £500 per day as an independent; £80k to £800; etc.

Business structure, regulatory and legal implications

  1. Decide on the most appropriate business structure – whether to operate as a limited company or on a self- employed basis – and understand the tax implications, including IR35. Some roles might be on a PAYE basis. I’ve done them all.
  2. Professional indemnity and other insurances may be necessary. I use Hiscox, many other providers are available.

Finding work is a multi-channel approach

  1. Networking – maintain contact with your existing networks and get out there to explore new ones. Get ready to kiss a lot of toads – it really is a numbers game, especially to start with. Also leverage your social media networks: I have secured work through LinkedIn and Twitter just by getting into the right conversations. Then get your elevator pitch ready. I find asking questions is more powerful than pitching your offer. Sort your LinkedIn profile out. Do you need a website? How will you interact with social media channels, for example will you be blogging, tweeting, etc.? The key to networking is to offer something of value even if you can’t see an immediate return. You are building your profile and reputation as someone who can make a difference.
  2. For employed roles, use job boards and for contract work and interim placements only, use recruitment agents. You’ll kiss a lot of toads here too. Agents are not the people to help you find part-time work or genuine consulting work, IMHO. You can also bid for public sector contracts using portals, if you have the energy to submit to the laborious application processes. I’ve bid for several, won one and now given up even looking.
  3. Seek out associate relationships – where larger firms sell work and sub-contract it out to independents. This is still a large part of my business, although after a few years, my own work took over in terms of relative income and the work’s importance to me.

Keep on top of your game

  1. It’s even more important than ever to keep up to date with your discipline, so consider taking more memberships of industry groups and professional practice forums, get a coach, mentor or supervisor, and consider your continuing professional development. Write some articles.

And finally, three more things that are useful to know and remember…

  • You will feel lost, vulnerable and exhilarated … often all at once!
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time you will spend on admin and unpaid business development.
  • Learn to say “No” if it the work offered is not in your sweet spot. Only when you say “No” does your “Yes” mean something.

It’s a rollercoaster. Get ready for the ride of your life!

Jeremy J Lewis

The A to Z of OD: Q is for Questions

Is consulting about offering your own solutions, or working collaboratively with clients to generate solutions jointly? The former involves telling, advising, recommending. The latter involves asking, diagnosing, exploring possibilities. I guess the answer depends on what sort of consulting you are offering. Perhaps you are an IT expert and there really is one best way of implementing a solution. More likely, you are engaged in collaborative consulting. OD is collaborative consulting. The A to Z of OD continues. Q is for Questions.

The Paradoxical nature of change

The paradox of change is that if you push too hard, it resists. If you let go, often it comes more easily. It’s the same with OD. If you seek tightly-defined solutions, elegant models, rigorous frameworks or SMART outcomes, people can become sceptical and resist.

OD is the planned approach to change, and yet it is equally invested in the process-centred journey as it is in the destination-focused goal. “What we need is better practice,” muses management guru Henry Mintzberg. “Not neater theory.” What he is saying is, “What we need is better questions, not neater solutions.”

Self as instrument of change

The practice of OD is the practice of asking questions. And it seems we’re in fashion: mansplaining is out, humble inquiry is in. It requires offering our vulnerability that we do not know the answers and that we might just find a path toward change by working together.

And by asking a question, the OD practitioner is intervening in the system – he is using himself as an instrument of change. OD scholar Ed Schein offers suggestions for some opening questions in his 2013 book Humble Inquiry:

“So…” (with an expectant look)

“What’s happening?”

“How are things going for you?”
(Note: not “Hi, how are you?”, which is likely to elicit a closed response, “Fine.”

“What brings you here?”

“Go on…” (or my personal favourite version of it, “Can you say more about that?”)

“Can you give me an example?”

The critical point here is to remain curious. To “seek first and then to be understood” as Dr Stephen Covey would have it. Yes, have an opinion, and yet at the same time hold it lightly. Explore everybody’s ideas equally, sincerely and with humility.

Some types of questions

There are good uses for open questions to explore issues, “What is keeping you awake at night?”, closed questions to focus, “So you are saying…, is that right?”, and choice questions, “on a scale from 1-10, how would you rate the current situation?”

There are several useful facilitative questions, used by people chairing or facilitating meetings to generate accountability in the other people present and move the conversation on, from, “What happened?”, to exploring root causes (why?) and possibilities, “How can we improve?”

There are also some very special types of questions, such as Nancy Kline’s incisive question, “If you know that you are [positive assumption, e.g. highly regarded by your client], what will you do differently?”, or the agreement frame from NLP, “I appreciate you want to [insert other person’s desire], how can we do that and [insert your own desire]?”, e.g. “I appreciate you want to dramatically increase sales; how can we do that through influence rather than pushing our clients too hard?”

Of course OD practitioners need to have insight too. There is a time to inquire and a time to advocate your opinion. Usually in that order.

OD thought leader: Robert E Quinn (b. 1946)

Robert E Quinn is a professor at the University of Michigan School of Business, specialising in HR management and organisational behaviour.

He believes organisational change cannot happen without deep individual change. He believes everyone in an organisation has the power to change the organisation. These ideas are set out in Deep Change, in which Quinn articulates a set of principles for personal transformation.

He suggests too many people are living their lives out as a version of ‘slow death’ for fear of rocking the boat. He suggest you choose deep change over slow death. This requires courage, sacrifice and hard work. It requires reflection and self-inquiry, looking inwards to ask yourself what you really, really want, what you believe, and how you will find the strength to begin to change. You might well need the support of a coach yourself. It is worth it. Avoid slow, creeping death and discover the new you through deep change. The new you can change your world.

Recommended reading: Quinn, Robert E., (1996) Deep Change: discovering the leader within, Wiley, NY.

Next time: R is for Reflective Practice.

The A to Z of OD: H is for Human

Thanks to OD Practitioner Dorothy Matthew, who challenges organisations to put ‘human beings’ as opposed to ‘human doings’ at the forefront matters… and then make the shift; Human was also suggested by Perry Timms.  H is for Humanising workplaces.

“Are we human, or are we dancer?”

Human is a thought-provoking song by The Killers. In it, frontman Brandon Flowers suggests being human is to have agency.  To be a dancer is to be a puppet, controlled by others.  This is a song about emancipation from those who would seek to control us.  In a work context, this is the organisation for whom we work.  It strikes me too many organisations still choose to do dumb things to people: by over-rationalising business processes, over-engineering restrictive policies and infantilising their people.

For me, OD is about humanising workplaces.  Technology, robots – thus far the antithesis of humanity – were supposed to give us humans more leisure time.  Yet we are working more and harder than ever.  We haven’t managed to systematically humanise workplaces yet.  Perhaps what we choose to delegate to the robots will enable us to humanise the work we keep for ourselves?  Perhaps we can humanise how we choose to lead the robots?

“Take a look in the mirror and what do you see?  Do you see it clearer or are you deceived?”

Human is a thought-provoking song by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.  The lyric is about taking responsibility for yourself and not trying to pass blame onto other people.

I use psychometrics in my OD practice to help people understand themselves and others better, so we can all play to our strengths and achieve more together by choosing to take responsibility for furthering the purpose of the organisations where we work.

We can’t go through life blaming others and we also can’t go through life using the excuse “I’m only human”.  Give yourself permission to make mistakes AND choose to take responsibility for your own behaviour.

Humanising workplaces

The results we get when know the dynamic between people and, in the future, know the dynamic between the humans and the robots – the ‘aha!’ moment I look for when working with my clients – is palpable.  It manifests as more collaboration, more empathy, more generative work practices, more humanised workplaces.  It takes time.  There is no magic potion.  There are no superheroes.  Just humans choosing to make a difference.  Practising some fundamental principles of human processes and relationships – the doings and the beings – of a humanised organisation.

American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious.  Success is the natural consequence of applying the basic fundamentals.”  Never truer than when choosing to be human, never truer than when humanising organisations.

OD Thought Leader: Jerry B. Harvey

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene (53 miles north) for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” The mother-in-law says that she would rather have stayed home but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

We fail to manage agreement and end up doing things nobody wants to do.  In the original anecdote above where Jerry Harvey established the Abilene Paradox, this happened at the expense of choosing to #JustBe.  Why are we programmed to find stuff to Just Do, when we often find our greatest breakthroughs come from choosing to #JustBe?

The paradoxical nature of Change: Oh, Sweet Irony!

Recommended reading: Jerry B. Harvey (1988) The Abilene Paradox and Meditations on Management, New York, Wiley.

Next time: I is for the Ice Cube theory of change

The A to Z of OD: E is for Energy – Managing Energy

Suggested by Perry Timms, Simon Daisley and – notably – Dorothy Matthew, who suggested to me that time management is outdated, and the focus today needs to be on managing energy as opposed to time, and Russell Harvey, who reminded me leading change means checking in with others to see how they are managing their energy for change.

Managing time is out

I remember attending a training course on time management when I first started out in my career.  We were encouraged to schedule important tasks in our diaries and treat them as of similar importance to meetings, for example.  At the end of the course, the delegates paired up to check-in and support each other with our agreed actions.  I can’t remember the name of the chap I paired with.  Let’s call him Dave.  So, a couple of weeks later, I dutifully phoned Dave…

“Hi Dave, it’s Jez.  How are you getting on with managing your diary?” I asked, politely.

“I’m far too busy to start with any of that crap!” he retorted, paradoxically.

Perhaps even then, the concept of time management was outdated.  Dave was living on adrenaline, managing all the tasks he needed to, performing adequately, perhaps, surviving, just.  But for how long is such an approach sustainable?

Managing energy is in

Fast forward a couple of decades or so and I now work with groups of senior leaders who are coping with gnarly transformational changes in their organisations.  My work is concerned with how to lead change so that it sustains.  I’m struck that today’s rapidly changing world gives rise to rapidly changing pressures on leaders.

I’ve said before that leading change starts on the inside.  We all react to change when it happens to us from the outside-in.  Learning to recognise our own emotional response means we can make more active choices in how to respond, rather than react.  How we can maintain our own energy for change, so we can help others cope with it too?  How we can internalise the change, so we work with it from the inside-out?  This, I believe, makes us better change leaders.

The way we are working is not working

I am reminded of the words that describe working in different zones as articulated by Tony Schwartz in The Way We work Isn’t Working.  Schwartz suggests we tend to operate in one of four zones:

  • Performance Zone, when our energy and activity are high, and we feel optimistic
  • Survival Zone, when our energy and activity are high, but we are running around doing so much. In this Zone, our emotional state is negative, we become pessimistic about work, we retreat into silos, protecting ourselves from the outside world.  We are just about surviving
  • Burnout Zone, when our energy dips catastrophically and it all becomes too much
  • Renewal Zone, when we find time to recover from the pressures of work, energy remains low (we are recovering after all), however we regain our optimism and become ready to move back to the Performance Zone.

So, what?

When the pace of work and change becomes too much, our performance slips, we can find ourselves operating in the Survival Zone.  We might find ourselves feeling lonely or moody, we may become narcissistic and unpredictable.  We might also become apathetic, appearing to others as stubborn or intense.  These are the signs we are moving towards the Burnout Zone.

The trick is to find ways to move freely between the Performance Zone and the Renewal Zone, so that we remain optimistic and enthusiastic, while slowing our energy and activity to recover, and then using our renewed energy to keep our performance high.

And so, the question becomes: what can you do to maintain your energy for change?  To find time in your routine to recover from the pressures of work – where the pace of change is ever-increasing – and keep your performance high?

Three tips to maintain your energy for change

  1. Find your own words to describe the four Zones. Then, notice when you are feeling that way, it is probably an indication you are already in that Zone, or moving towards it
  2. Work out what renews your energy – this might be mindful meditation, sport or exercise, social activities, hobbies or clubs. At work, it might simply be finding time to leave your desk and go for a walk or have your lunch with others away from the office.  It might be finding time to #JustBe.  Outside of work it might be reading, listening to or playing music, painting or simply have a long soak in a hot bath.  This tip helps you discover your own Renewal Zone.
  3. Mindfully choose to spend time in your Renewal Zone. Schedule it in your diary if needs be.  Dave, are you listening?  I was listening, I have time blocked out in my diary entitled #JustBe.

You might find you start to spot the signs of the Survival Zone or Burnout Zone in others.  If so, you might want to encourage them to think about their own Renewal Zone.  You may also find you can spot the signs of the Performance Zone or the Renewal Zone in others and choose to appreciate them, to celebrate their achievement!

OD Thought Leader: Chester Elton, “The Apostle of Appreciation” (1958 – )

Chester Elton is one of the masters of employee engagement.

Elton and his co-author, Adrian Gostick, conducted research with 200,000 managers and literally millions of workers to evidence the thinking behind their ‘Carrot Principle’.  The research found that feeling appreciated is one of the highest ranked (top three, worldwide) workers’ motivations.

They propose, “a carrot is something used to inspire and motivate an employee. It’s something to be desired… Simply put, when employees know that their strengths and potential will be praised and recognised, they are significantly more likely to produce value.”

Their research has spawned an industry of formal employee recognition schemes. But it is the informal, cultural aspects that often have the most impact. A carrot does not need to be monetary. Simply being thanked or publicly recognised is enough for many.

If I may borrow from another great thought leader, Nancy Kline, “people do their best thinking in the presence of Appreciation.” I’d suggest ‘their best thinking’ translates readily into ‘their best work’. And so, managers showing their honest appreciation improves organisational performance.

Creating a climate of appreciation enables organisations to sustain what Elton calls a ‘Carrot Culture’.

And if, as I believe, Engagement is one of the engines of organisational effectiveness, this can only help to humanise the workplace in a systemic way. And that, dear readers, is what OD is all about.

Recommended reading: Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton (2009): The Carrot Principle, London, Simon and Schuster

Next time: F is for Facilitation

The A to Z of OD (Part I)

This is the first part in a series of articles that will set out the A to Z of organisation development.  The series will consider the principles and practices, the tools and techniques and the past and present thought leaders that have shaped the field.  I don’t know exactly what will be included under each letter of the alphabet.  That will emerge.  If you have any thoughts on what you think should be included, get in touch and we’ll discover together where this goes!

But first, we must discover what is OD.  And to do that, we must first decide what is an organisation.

What is an organisation?

An organisation is a group of people who come together to achieve a common purpose.  They establish a collection of systems and processes that produces more together than the sum of their parts.  These components continually impact on each other, depend on each other to thrive and collectively contribute as a ‘whole system’ towards achieving the organisation’s purpose.

Different parts of any organisation perform different functions and can become highly specialised.  This specialisation creates a need for coordination at a ‘whole system’ level, i.e. the need for more and more sophisticated leadership and organisation.

What is organisation development?

Organisation development is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing sustainable change that recognises and draws on this ‘whole system’ thinking.  It also uses applied behavioural science to understand organisational and team dynamics.  After all, organisations are human systems – they only exist as a collection of people coming together to achieve a common purpose.

The goal of organisation development is to maximise the organisation’s effectiveness at serving its purpose.

A is for Action Learning

Action learning is a process whereby participants study their own actions and experiences to improve their performance.  You do it in conjunction with others in small groups called action learning sets, typically using the services of a facilitator.

Action learning propels your personal development further and faster in the real world.  This is because your peers are helping you reflect on your interactions with other people and the learning points arising.  This guides future action and develops real-world wisdom rather than traditional educational processes that focus purely on knowledge.  It is particularly suited to leadership development in organisations, where participants are working on real problems in the real world that affect real people.

OD thought leader: Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris (1923-2013) was a founding father of organisation development.  He is known for seminal work on developing learning organisations.  He pioneered Action Science – the study of how people choose their actions in difficult situations.

Action Learning and Action Science are related.  There is a risk the former may inadvertently encourage ‘single-loop’ learning: you act, you reflect on the outcome of that action and then make practical adjustments so that you revise the action you take next time.

Argyris argued that humans are overwhelmingly programmed to act based of defensive thinking.  Organisations reinforce this defensive behaviour through institutionalised routines.  Such routines prevent individuals expressing concerns, encourage avoiding behaviour and promote a lack of authenticity.  It is hard to break this vicious cycle.

Argyris proposed a double-loop of learning.  Double-loop learning means to be reflective in-the-moment, to continuously pay attention to the present to make your positive future intention a reality.  We must continue to learn, and we must continually relearn how to learn.  For me, reflective double-loop learning is one of the cornerstones of organisation development.

Recommended reading: Argyris, C. (2000). Flawed Advice and The Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They’re Getting Good Advice and When They’re Not. New York, Oxford.

Next time: B is for Behaviours

Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

Discover the wisdom of the streets

We are running Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

“[People] must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing… they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.”

–      Samuel Smiles, author of Self Help , 1859

What is the purpose of being if not to discover truths and insights that are obscured by day-to-day concerns?  Street Wisdom gives participants the skills to see the urban environment in a new way, ask a question and use the answers they discover to move forwards in life with a greater sense of wellbeing.

“The concept of creativeness and the concept of the healthy, self-actualizing, fully human person seem to be coming closer and closer together and may perhaps turn out to be the same thing”

–      Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

What is the purpose of being if not to be happy and inspired in our own lives?  Street Wisdom is a global, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to bring inspiration to every street on earth.

“Recognising that you are not where you want to be is a starting point to begin changing your life”

–      Deborah Day, Author of Be Happy Now, 2010

Led by Jeremy Lewis, an experienced coach and professional Street Wizard, Street Wisdom will enable you to find inspiration by wandering through the City’s streets.  Why wait for escape to exotic destinations when inspiration can be found on your own doorstep? Street Wisdom shows you how.

How it works

It’s very simple – that’s because Street Wisdom have been refining the process for years.

Tune Up. Quest. Share.

  1. First, your Street Guide helps you and your group tune up your senses so you can pick up much more information from the urban environment that you would normally.
  2. Then you’re off on a journey by yourself – your street quest – where you ask a question and see what answers present themselves.
  3. Finally, you gather together again to share what happened and, more often than not, wonder at how magical an ordinary street can become when you’re really aware of those hidden messages, chance meetings and unexpected discoveries.

 

The whole event lasts three hours.  Meet on the steps of Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, at 13:00.

Book now

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/street-wisdom-at-leedswellbeingweek-tickets-42527718551

http://streetwisdom.org               www.leedswellbeingweek.co.uk

Understanding the public service leadership challenges

The challenges

The public service leadership challenges of cuts, confusion and change have become the norm.  The basic elements needed to lead through this ever-changing landscape are: clarity over direction; adequate support to adopt change (preferably in the form of budgets for resources and development) and positive consequences for delivering the change without damaging services.

There is now a growing realisation amongst public sector leaders that each of these elements is irrevocably threatened: confusion has replaced clarity; cuts have replaced adequate support and negative consequences have replaced any semblance of positivity.

For too long, individual leaders have sought the answers unilaterally, while the pressure to retain accountability mounts daily.  They have done this while struggling to have influence that the right things get done within an evolving democratic Political process.

Individual leaders cannot be expected to have all the answers.  The solution requires whole system leadership.  This means that learning to collaborate is essential, both within organisations and between partners in other public organisations, and in the private and third sectors.

Evidence-based recommendations

Recent research supports the need for leaders to balance collective leadership and accountability with changes in the Political process:

In The 21st Century Public Servant, the University of Birmingham  asked questions around what is the range of different roles  and requirements on  those responsible for delivery 21st century public services and what are the support and training requirements for these roles.  In a 2016 report, the Institute for Government undertook a study on the impact of elected regional mayors on ministerial and local accountability, reporting that “success of local collaboration and innovation will depend on the strength of local accountability.”

The latest leadership research, Leadership: all you need to know, (Pendleton and Furnham, Palgrave, 2012), suggests that individual leaders cannot be expected to have all the answers.  Leadership requires strategic focus, operational focus and a focus on developing relationships.  Leaders are probably strong in one or two of these and very rarely all three.  The answer is of course to develop collective leadership where the top team has access to all these capabilities.

This evidence points to the need for public sector leaders to understand more deeply their own leadership strengths and development areas and consider how to build collective leadership to face the challenges of cuts, confusion and change.

Supporting leaders to rise to the challenge

In 2013, in association with the LGA and Skills for Government, Solace published Asking the right questions following consultation and a number of interviews with serving CXs to understand the key challenges they faced and the skills and behaviours they believed were required by their peers and those aspiring to such roles.

Working with CMdeltaConsulting, Solace have now adapted the thinking from both sets of research to suit a broader leadership population and develop collective accountability for public sector leadership – the Leading in Context Framework

The framework can be accessed by individual leaders taking a free self-assessment diagnostic questionnaire, available here.  The tool works by presenting you with 30 statements relating to your experience at work.  Once you have selected the responses that most closely represent your experience or usual way of working, you are immediately presented with a brief report that shows your strengths and development areas against the Leading in Context Framework

Next steps

We can build the solution to the current challenges together.  Using the free diagnostic questionnaire and report, individual leaders can deepen their own understanding of their leadership strengths and development areas, build a shared understanding of the leadership challenges and perhaps increase their collective accountability to develop as leadership teams and across multi-agency partnerships.

 

Trudy Birtwell – Head of Leadership and Organisational Development at Solace

Jeremy Lewis – MD at CMdeltaConsulting and Solace Associate

Note for editors

Solace (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers) is the representative body for senior strategic managers working in the public sector. We are committed to public sector excellence. We provide our members with opportunities for personal and professional development and seek to influence the debate about the future of public services to ensure that policy and legislation reflect the experience and expertise of our members.

CMdeltaConsulting is a specialist consulting, coaching and facilitation firm that focuses on whole system leadership and collaborative partnering.  We are committed to making a difference in helping senior leaders and the teams they lead thrive.  Working directly with public sector leaders, we support and challenge them to ensure the changes they need to make stick, partner and coach them throughout their change journey and build the skills they and their teams need to face tomorrow’s challenges.  We support public sector organisations in Local Government, Health and the Police.

Your help needed: participate in some research and discover your preferred ways of working

I need your help.  I have an amazing opportunity for you to benefit from some research into personality types and behavioural preferences.  But first, some context…

Developing your understanding of personality types and thinking styles is a useful way to improve your knowledge of motivation and behaviour in the workplace.

Millions of people across the world have undertaken assessments to determine their personality type.  There are a plethora of behavioural and personality type psychometric instruments out there.  However, the psychology of Carl Jung, as adapted and interpreted by one Isabel Briggs-Myers and one Katharine Cook Briggs (aka the Myers-Briggs thing), is one of the most recognised and commonly used.

Personality types

Here comes the “science”.  In a nutshell, your personality is determined by four dichotomies.  Firstly, how you take in (or Perceive) information.  This you can do in a detailed, sequential sort of way (Sensing) or a big picture, snapshot sort of way (iNtuition).  Then, you need to consider how you make decisions (or Judgements) based on that information.  This you can do objectively (Thinking) or empathetically (Feeling).  One of these Perceiving or Judging dichotomies will dominate your approach to dealing with the world.  Finally, you will put your energy into your dominant approach either by focusing on the external world (Extraversion) or by internalising it (Introversion).  The answers to these four dichotomies yield 16 personality types, each identified by a four-letter acronym.  Only it’s not “science”.  Rather, it’s a metaphor for observable behaviour, just like the Native American Medicine Wheel or even Astrology.

How these four dichotomies apply most often to you determines which of 16 personality types you have, which in turn determines how you are likely to respond to stimuli.

I sort of have a problem with this.  People are, well, people.  We are just trying to categorise certain observable behaviours.  Neuroscience now shows that our rational and emotional minds are quite able to be trained to respond in whatever way we choose to any given situation.  So why straightjacket us with a “type”?  And why make that type so darned complicated?

The concept of preference

What if some of these types were viewed simply as behavioural preferences?  What would these preferences be?  It turns out four such behavioural modes will suffice – Driving, Analysing, Organising and Energising.

What if we could recognise we already have relatively easy access to more than one behavioural mode, say two or even three of these modes?

I’m told I have an ISFP personality type.  I know I extravert my perceptions and introvert my feelings.  Apparently, this means I work with bursts of energy and makes me a P. Yet I am quite able to plan out my day too (J).  I’m also happy taking in information in different ways (S and N) and applying both rational thinking and emotional feelings (T and F) to make decisions.  I spend long periods of time focusing on others’ needs and taking in others’ perspectives (E) and I spend long periods of time on my own reflecting and making sense of that data (I).

I am all these things and more.  Perhaps we need a behavioural psychometric that understands people and I believe I have found one such tool. I use it a lot in my organisation development consulting, coaching and facilitation practice.  I’m so excited about I, I have become accredited to provide training to others to become MiRo Practitioners.

If you’d like to find out more about your behavioural preferences, and those of your teammates, I have something that might interest you.  MiRo Psychometrics are currently undertaking some research into benchmarking their model with the Myers Briggs model.

Your help needed

That’s why we need your help. We need 25 groups of 20 people to take a MiRo Assessment and another Myers Briggs assessment so that we can benchmark one against the other.

In return we can give you 20 free bespoke reports and a team report, plus up to a free day of practitioner time.  This package would normally be worth £2,500 in total.

We can take your team through the reports and help you to understand them and your team better in the context of your business or your situation. We want this to be a positive and rewarding experience for you.  And we hope that when it’s over you’ll want to know more about MiRo and want to do even more with the tool. However, if you simply want the free reports and the free training and consultancy that comes with them, then it’s all yours and we’ll leave it at that.

All we ask in return is that you spend a few minutes completing a very short questionnaire.

If you’d like to be considered to take part in the research or just want to know more, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Jeremy J Lewis