Category Archives: Leadership

Is coaching a useful management skill? (part 2)

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In a previous post, I described what coaching is, how to coach your own people and how coaching can even be useful to those that don’t manage others.  Here, I expand on this introduction, explaining how coaching benefits the organisation, the manager and staff member.

Benefits to the coachee or staff member:

  • Most people yearn to do a good job and to release their full potential in the workplace. Working in an environment where their manager supports them in this and helps them to find their motivation creates a “win/ win” for leaders and those they lead.
  • A coaching approach can help people to be more effective and so gain more satisfaction from their work. The results of this can bring huge benefits for their development. The coachee can take more responsibility, become more committed and productive in a supportive, empowering and stretching environment. It is also a useful mechanism for job enrichment, as you can use the unsung heroes in departments who may feel they have reached a plateau, but who will have significant experience and organisational knowledge.
  • People at work can often feel like a very small inanimate cog in a very large machine. Using a coaching approach absolutely turns this on its head. Any intervention using a coaching approach, from a ‘corridor conversation’ to an annual appraisal, means that the ‘coachee‘ is the focus of attention and the most important person at that moment for the manager.
  • I think coaching has perhaps the greatest impact because it challenges the individual to implement changes in their work and follows up if this has been done and what it has achieved. It is therefore far more likely that individuals make the required changes to their practice/work. It is also more likely to make a positive impact on work because it is more supportive and is an individual approach. Changes are gradually introduced that support the individual to achieve the desired outcome in an appropriate time and way specific to that individual. It also encourages a “learning” response in people who then go on to be self coaching i.e. asking themselves the sorts of questions a coach would without actually having a coach.

Benefits to the Line Manager as Coach

  • A coaching management style is so helpful for the manager in that it will take away the pressure and stress of having to come up with all the answers themselves. For example in one major plc, field staff were not getting any 121 support because the managers felt that they personally had to come up with all the solutions to the problems. Now they act as facilitators and help their staff to come up with 2 or 3 solutions – if it comes from within a person there is every chance they will do it. However much of UK plc still believes that managers must tell!
  • I’ve never come across an organisation in which managers complain of having too many excellent staff. Since the performance of a team or organisation will always reflect many different individual inputs it helps to get the best out of every member of the team. A coaching style can make a real contribution here.
  • It is most rewarding seeing line reports blossom using such an approach.

Benefits to the organisation

  • One of the benefits from organisation-wide coaching is that it improves knowledge transfer, or if you like, gets the stuff to move around the organisation better. People learn that their knowledge and skill-set is valued more when it is made widely available than when it is wrapped around them for protection. So it reduces the number of single-holder knowledge/power points.
  • The climate in a business where coaching is a preferred approach creates engagement, improves morale and serves the customer better. This directly impacts the bottom line. In other words the return on investment is high.

In summary coaching is a very powerful management tool with a number of benefits at many levels. It is also a key leadership style as the old ‘command and control’ is really limited to crisis occasions.

Who can you start coaching? What benefits will it bring your business?

If you want to get in touch, please email, tweet, or leave a comment below.

Is coaching a useful management skill?

By | Career, Leadership, Productivity | 2 Comments

coaching peopleWelcome to our latest post. You may be thinking it’s been a bit quiet. You’re right! I have taken some time off in August, which was wonderful. In this blog I focus on coaching as a management skill and a true leadership skill. What is it exactly, how do you do it and what are the benefits?

What about if you don’t manage people, is coaching relevant?

Yes, because as a skill set you still have yourself to manage and your peers.

Definition of Coaching

Before we can check out how useful coaching skills are to the line manager we need to define what it is. I like the way Myles Downey, in his book Effective Coaching, describes coaching as… “Potential minus interference is equal to performance”. What he means by this is that performance can be maximised and potential released if the stuff in the way can be removed or minimised. So someone can perform better in their job, i.e. you or a team member, if attention is focused on the right things and doing them right. Another way to consider coaching is that it’s about the future; it’s about achieving results and supporting someone through that process.

How to coach your people

If you manage people, coaching is a very powerful skill to have at your disposal. Imagine a manager and direct report having a conversation. It’s all about agreeing what has to be done namely setting some targets for the future. Having this role clarity can be a revelation in itself. Then by working backwards to the current day you can define what gap is there to fill to meet the targets. Having identified this gap, the line manager asks his/ her team member for all the possible options to meet that gap. What are all the ideas and possibilities that help achieve that target? This is the creative bit where the line manager mostly listens and when once the team member has exhausted his or her ideas only then can the line manager chip in theirs. This way you can tap into the resourcefulness of your coachee. After all, the manager as coach does not have to have all the answers! The last part of the process is agreeing a way forward. Out of all the ideas generated which does the coachee feel are the best and easiest? What timescales are realistic? Who can help or provide resources? What could go wrong and how can this be worked around? This is very similar to project management in getting the best ideas into action plans.

What about if you don’t manage people; how is coaching relevant?

If you don’t manage any people then this is still relevant in that you do manage yourself and self coaching is a very useful discipline, as is coaching peers. Colleagues can benefit enormously from support and listening but probably the most helpful bit is asking questions about their assumptions and giving them to think aloud in an uninterrupted way. In her excellent book Time to Think, Nancy Kline talks about the increase in ideas and energy from really questioning and listening with peers.

So what are the benefits of coaching to the organisation, the manager and the staff member? Why bother with this coaching stuff?

The answers to these questions will have to wait for another post, but if you want to get in touch in the meantime, please email, tweet, or leave a comment below!

10 steps to making really good decisions

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10 steps to making really good decisions

In an earlier post, I started talking about decision-making; good and bad.  In his book the Motivated Mind, Raj Persaud recommends ten steps to making better decisions:

  1. Make sure you haven’t decided already. Give yourself a chance to consider all the alternatives and resist impulse.
  2. Gather as much information as possible before deciding. Invest in finding information about the situation and options as this is time and money well spent to minimise risk.
  3. Imagine the consequences of your decision. Consider not just the short term implications of your decision but the long term too. Persaud recommends projecting yourself into the future and looking back to the present and imagine what advice you would be giving yourself? If you take this set of decisions what does it stop or limit you doing? What doors are you opening and which are you shutting?
  4. Think about poor decisions you have made in the past. What can you notice about any themes, vulnerabilities, weak spots? What can you learn to avoid repetition? There maybe some sense of discomfort but facing up to our poor decisions through learning and becoming wiser encourages progress and lessens any sense of failure.
  5. Consider all the possible alternatives. As mentioned earlier use your ‘creative, ideas’ side of your brain. Write a long list of options.
  6. Pay particular notice to the worst case scenario. Having identified such options be clear about the risks and consider whether you are prepared to sacrifice x for y.
  7. Seek guidance and support. Talking decisions through can help clarify your thoughts. It can also show up personal prejudices, things taken for granted which may actually be quite unhelpful.
  8. Observe good decision-makers in action. Who are the role models you can learn from? What do they take into account that perhaps you are neglecting?
  9. Sometimes simply waiting is a good decision. Making a decision at the right time and avoiding procrastination demands good organisation. If you feel you want to wait and to reflect and then make your decision, don’t forget – make sure you have a memory aid!
  10. Don’t get so obsessed with always making the right decision, that you put off making decisions at all. Errors are inevitable, none of us are perfect. Review what works regularly and what isn’t so good and change and fine tune to make improvements.

Involving staff in good decisions

Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, recommends using creative ideas to involve staff to make the best decisions. She used to get her team to write messages on the lavatory walls to say:’ Is this a family- friendly company?’ people were always allowed to write anonymously and the board had to respond at the same time. Roddick describes this as opening up your world and letting the ideas flow. During times of organisational change it definitely pays to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the people by taking a little longer to listen and involve the team to make better decisions.

If you do make a poor decision in your work how do you recover the situation?

If you are asked by your boss or a key customer into their office for a chat about a balls-up what can you do other than the usual defend yourself and blame others? The emotionally intelligent answer is to search for agreement with your boss/customer. Pepper your responses with agreements. Accept what went wrong and that it shouldn’t happen again. Agree also, that something needs to be done to avoid a repetition. These responses will make your boss/customer feel they are being listened to.

So good decisions involve the heart and head, both left side for the logic and the right side for the creativity. Intuition is a skill to develop too. Take time and take a calculated risk.

It’s not about never ever making any wild decisions as life then will be very dull!   

Good decision making – how do you shape up?

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In this post I focus on how to improve our decision making.

You may want to make some changes in your professional life or business. Critical thinking, seasoned decision-making and judgement are key attributes for any professional. As is tuning into your intuition to make decisions feel right. Can you improve how you do this?

Yes, you can!

Please read on for some ideas to support and inspire you.

If you are considering making demanding decisions in the year ahead, how do you make sure you are making the right decisions?

  • Have you ever made poor decisions?
  • Lost out on something big?
  • Messed it up?

We all have and hindsight is a wonderful thing but unless you can travel back in time you don’t often get a second chance! Do any of these examples of poor decisions listed below, sound like you:

  • Resigning from your job or quitting on a contract on impulse with no other job to go to?
  • Not spotting things because you haven’t thought through the situation from all angles?
  • Getting angry about an issue and upsetting people with whom you need a long term professional relationship?
  • Not acting but procrastinating instead, putting off tasks for another day?
  • Worrying, becoming stressed out and making a decision when you are exhausted?
  • Taking on too much and producing mediocre results?
  • Doing what you always do and expecting a different result?
  • Sitting on the fence unable to make decision one way or the other and frustrating those who work with you? Making a recent decision which just didn’t feel right and with hindsight you should have listened to that feeling?

What is really good decision making?

Decision making involves making a choice from a range of different options. Sometimes there is so much choice that we feel overwhelmed. It can be complex and incredibly difficult to feel you are making the right choice but there are some helpful ingredients to guide you.

Judgement: what is right or wrong? What is ethical, moral, or “green”? What boundaries are you adopting which support your beliefs and principles? Learning from Enron springs to mind here.

Values: what drivers and motivators can guide you to feel you are making a decision that will inspire you? Will the decision move you towards your goals and away from problems?

Intuition: What is your inner wisdom or gut telling you? Can you answer a definite “yes” to this? If not, listen to what your instinct is telling you.

‘Creative silence’ is a technique where you take 10 to 20 minutes each day when you have quiet time to sit and let the brain make connections without a forced agenda. This helps you make use of your intuition and solve problems as it mimics meditation by going into the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is very smart and looks for mismatches and solutions. Consider whether there any decisions you made recently with your logical hat on but keep coming back to? There may be a mismatch with your values or principles which you are working through.

Reflection: Give yourself time to make an important decision. This is the only time procrastination is helpful when you sleep on something to get some more perspective. Perspective is extremely important in making robust decisions. Having an external frame of reference if you run your own business is vital. If you work in the corporate world make use of colleagues to test out ideas.

Experience: What is your past telling you? What have you learned that works well?

Creativity: What are all the different options available to you? If you believe you are not very creative use a technique to help structure your thinking e.g. a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. If you’re not very high on original thought and work better on building on someone else’s ideas – find that someone! A good website for developing creative solutions to the problems you face is Or more simply, think about the benefits and the costs of your decisions. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Logic: What are the natural steps to take and in what order? What is the end result you desire and what are the steps to achieve that? Help: Asking for help from others who have been in this situation before or have expertise in this area is a real sign of strength.

Stakeholders: Who is potentially involved in this decision and has a view? What will be the likely impact if you don’t involve them? Tap into your emotional intelligence and be aware! Another way to look at this is to simply think about what would the customer want or the end-user? How does the decision impact them?

Priorities: If you only worked on one thing – what would it be? What decisions can move this forward?

In my next post, I will look at 10 ways to make really good decisions. In the meantime, if you want some coaching on your decision-making, get in touch!

How can Emotional Intelligence Help You?

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EQ and IQ as an icebergI have written before about identifying how Emotional Intelligence (EI) can help in your current role.

It also applies to other aspects of your professional life including career management, team work, working with customers/suppliers and leadership roles.

EI & leadership

“The fundamental task of leaders is to prime good feeling in those they lead” says Goleman. Great leadership works through emotions not just strategy, vision and powerful ideas. Success depends on ‘how’ they do it. In my experience this is certainly true for managing change.

EI and personal success

How does this EI approach apply outside of work? What relationships might you have outside of work where this could apply?

Family, parent, daughter, son, partner, friend, neighbour, community, schools, clubs, societies, church etc. Are these worth investing some thinking time and action to improve and develop?

The 4 minute rule story

I want to finish off by telling you a great story I heard on the radio.

Steve McDermott, a motivational speaker, asks how do people regard you? Do they want to see you or see the back of you? He suggests the following way of looking at yourself: 10 minutes before you are about to arrive at work or at home ask yourself:

  • How would the best Salesman/Manager/etc act when they arrive at the office?
  • How would the best Mum/Dad in the world act when s/he arrives home?

You only have to act this out for 4 minutes before the people you are mixing with will react to you positively, which fuels you to continue and so on without having to try. Tap into your emotion, use your energy, think of some things to say and do, and listen for just 4 minutes and make someone’s day.

I rather like this way of summing up what EI is all about: “All the knowledge and skills in the world are no use without the right attitudes and good habits.”

How can you use EI to be more successful?


Emotional Intelligence: do you need bucket loads of it?

By | Career, Leadership, Managing Strengths | 2 Comments

I’m focusing this time on the concept of emotional intelligence (EI). Is it mumbo jumbo or a secret weapon you can tap into? Read on to find out!

  • EI – what is it?
  • How can EI help you?
Emotional intelligence: What is it? How can it help you?

My definition is simple; EI is being intelligent about your emotions. It’s making the best of yourself using a high degree of self awareness. It is about getting the best out of others too. It works by combining the head i.e. thinking and logic on the left side of the brain (if you are right handed) and creativity on the right hand side and the heart: the emotions and feelings. This concept is based on the work of Daniel Goleman. He wrote 2 international best sellers:

  • “Emotional Intelligence”
  • “Working with Emotional intelligence”

His definition says that “EI is about being smart, how we handle ourselves and our relationships”. Essentially he talks about how this matters more than IQ and educational success.

How about we bring EI alive? Let’s think about this together. Imagine a very bright person, very intelligent, who has passed lots of exams. Now add in their interpersonal skills, how they get on with other people…say in this case poorly. In Goleman’s terms they are best suited to back room jobs where they can be great thinkers and analysts. However, most jobs require some people contact and relationship building. So imagine the combination of someone who is bright and good at relationships…they will find it much easier to find work, will be good in a team, able to lead a team etc. All round they are more likely to be successful in the organisation as they don’t need to work in isolation! Goleman says the EI competencies (which we will come onto in more depth) are not innate talents, but learned abilities.

So how does this apply to all of us? To be more successful we can all work on our EI; to get the best out of ourselves and others, to adapt to situations we are in and the people we are with.

As Charles Darwin wrote:  “It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but those who are the most adaptive to change.”

So, if you need to make sure that you can adapt, please get in touch.

Gender difference, part 2

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gender differencesTips for the workplace:

In a previous post, I looked at gender differences you should know about. This time, it’s tips about how to deal with those differences in the workplace:

  • Take notice of those non-verbal signals by tapping into women’s intuition, i.e., the ability to notice small details and changes in the appearance or behaviour of others. By using this ability you can detect subtle mood and attitude changes in your team, colleagues and peers. At a meeting ask some of the females to summarise the feelings and emotions that are occurring, a very emotionally intelligent thing to do.
  • Female and attending an interview for a management position? Wear a more masculine style of outfit. You have a better chance of being selected than if you dress in a more feminine outfit. Even if the interviewer is female!
  • Male characteristics and values are largely responsible for driving people to the top of the organisation but feminine values are becoming the way to stay there, encouraging team work, interdependence and collaboration.
  • Men have logical, problem-solving minds and often feel that there is no need to share their own problems with others. So with small problems males are best left alone to work them through. With big problems this inability to effectively problem solve and talk at the same time can lead to stress. Encourage male colleagues to talk about what is going on and see that it is a real strength to ask for help and not battle on their own. Interestingly women are happy to share their problems but don’t necessarily want advice but just to be listened to. So give female colleagues a listening ear.
  • Closing business deals with direct, short, solution-focused sentences is where males thrive. Such direct speech can seem rude and abrupt in social settings. Using indirect speech or concentrating on building rapport is generally a natural female style. The ideal in business is maybe a duo of male and female, each complementing the other.
  • To encourage male listening, give him an agenda and advance notice. This appeals to his logical side and makes him feel appreciated in terms of why you are meeting and his contribution to the agenda and solving the issue.
  • If you are in the position of selecting a team or project group, a mix of males and females is best. This manages the competition amongst the men in terms of status and hierarchy, and maximises the harmony with the females. The blend of problem solvers and relationship builders can support and help each other to create a better end result.

Our genetics may determine our physiology but do remember that our up-bringing and any training and development will enable us to change, adapt and improve! Bear in mind too that our personality differences such as introversion and extraversion, can also emphasise and/or compensate gender differences. By acknowledging our differences we can embrace them!  

Gender difference: what do you need to know?

By | Leadership, Managing Strengths, Productivity | One Comment

Grab yourself a drink and take a minute or two to read this and see if any of it makes you smile! In this post I focus on the differences between male and female brains and next time I’ll look at how to make the most of this knowledge at work.

Do I really need to know about gender differences in the human brain?

So let’s get the biology lesson over with! Males and females are different; not better or worse, but different. Same species different worlds!  We evolved differently because men hunted and protected whilst women gathered and nurtured. Over millions of years brain structures continued to change. We think differently and process information differently. Our perceptions, priorities and behaviours are also different. How does this relate to you? Well if you live, work and play with the opposite sex here are some interesting facts!

9 differences you should know about:
  1. Eyes in the back of her head? Not quite but females do have better peripheral vision. Males have a type of longer tunnel vision to see well in a narrower field and so make better night time drivers!
  2. Women’s eyes display more white than men’s eyes because close range personal communication is an integral part of female bonding. Having more white on show, allows a greater range of eye signals to be sent and received.
  3. Females are more effective at lying to males face to face because male brains are less skilled at spotting incongruencies between verbal and non verbal signals.
  4. Reading between the lines is something women are said to do. This is due to their greater sensitivity in differentiating tone changes in voice volume and pitch enabling them to hear emotional changes in others. Men, however, have better directional hearing for hunting purposes.
  5. Male brains are not so well equipped to hear or see details. Females pick up the visual, vocal and body language signals such as who is talking to who and the subtleties behind this; whereas the male brain was evolved to see a zebra on the horizon and how fast it’s moving!
  6. Most males have a specific brain location for sensing direction and so find navigation and orientation easy. Men use their spatial skills here. I know I certainly prefer to drive and let my husband do the map reading!
  7. Females are attracted to therapy, counselling and teaching professions because of their strength in speech. Women have two speech centres in their brain, one on each side enabling them to be good conversationalists!  Males have one speech centre in the left part of the brain.
  8. A woman’s brain is configured for multi-tasking because of the larger number of connections between the right and left side of the brain. Males literally have a more compartmentalised brain and prefer to focus on one thing at a time.
  9. At the end of a day full of problems, a male brain can file and store them all away. This ability to store and separate information comes from the compartmentalised male brain. Females, however, have less function to store and so the problems go round and round in her head. Hence the need to talk about them and acknowledge them!

So with all these differences what can you do to maximise your natural strengths and those of the people you work with?

Get in touch with The Smart Coaching Company!

Improving Personal Productivity, Part 3

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productivityFollowing on from my previous posts on Improving Productivity, Part 1 and Part 2, some more tips:

  1. In every meeting you have, whether it’s with one person or many, always have an agenda, have objectives of why you are meeting and an end time. Nancy Kline in her book Time to Think has some excellent ideas on how to run good meetings based on thinking and listening which are a bit different to the usual advice!
  2. Really question every meeting you agree to attend. Remember past meetings you have been to, add in preparation time, travel time, time when the meeting doesn’t start punctually, time when the meeting overruns and then ask yourself was that the best way of spending what was supposed to be 2 hours and turns into half a day?  Could the meeting be run as a conference call? How else could it be held?
  3. Be selfish and plan in time, i.e. block out in your diary, to action and prepare for meetings so that you don’t feel like you have 2 jobs … one during the day to attend meetings and the second to start at 5.30pm to actually get some things done! Be proactive about your diary and take regular views of how you can be proactive rather than reacting to everyone else’s demands on you.  Get in there first.
  4. It is recommended to work on no more than 3 or 4 things at any one time. If it is more than this you lose your focus. This applies to men and women. There are gender differences here but this advice is good for both.
  5. There is much written about working on what is important and not just what is urgent.  Businesses and entrepreneurs who make a shift to concentrate on what is important become more successful. Rather than being busy on trivia, on problem solving, working on the easy things first, getting distracted, on being busy itself…take time to think about the purpose and vision for the future. This guides you to decide on the priorities and define the boundaries and what to say ‘yes’ to and ‘no’ to, when you are making decisions.  Consider the following questions:
    • What is time well spent for you?
    • What is purposeless activity and how can you reduce it?
    • What is purposeful activity and how can you increase it?
  6. Work out who can help you.  Save time struggling on your own. It is a sign of strength to ask for help and advice. Modelling is a Neuro Linguistic Programming term (NLP) whereby you identify who is good at the thing you are not skilled at and you go and ask them what is it that they do, to improve. What a compliment!  Who do you know who seems to pack in a lot, gets everything done and have time to smile?  Have a coffee with them for some advice.
  7. Could you delegate and develop someone at the same time? Improve your delegation skills if necessary. These are key to good time management. If you are not so hot at this – get some training!
  8. Is procrastination an issue for you? Do you keep putting something off, something that is important that needs some thought and can’t seem to find a couple of hours to get going? Follow Mark Forster’s tip on this and find 5 minutes.  Get yourself a notepad and a pen and time yourself to write and write furiously for 5 minutes.  Don’t stop writing for a full 5 minutes and when the time is up stop writing even in mid sentence.  You will notice 2 things (1) how much you can write in 5 minutes and actually get started with and (2) if you stop mid sentence it is easier to get started when you pick up the pen next time rather than staring into space!  The message here is find time for important things. If you can find several lots of 5 minutes even better.  Do remember working flat out can only be sustained for about 45 minutes!

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