Coaching in Adversity

Over the last decade Coaching has become a real success in people development, both for top level people to hone their performance and as a powerful way to shift cultures from within the organisation. The recent downturn has seen a shift in the need and style of coaching – coaching for resilience is far more likely to be the theme. The context is often one of survival as well as keeping going in these tough times, where it can be difficult to keep yourself and your teams motivated.

I recently ran a workshop on Leading through Adversity where the key themes were on the ability to focus on going forward with the right mental state to keep you there!  As a coach, I am often helping the less experienced executives, particularly if they have never been through this level of uncertainty before. Coaching helps them navigate their way through, learning some frameworks and techniques along the way, as adverse times require a different sort of leadership and mental state.

For example, controlling only what you can now and letting go of what you have no influence over prevents you from getting stuck in the problem. Deciding what impact you are going to have on what happens next and how you can maintain this keeps you thinking of your positive reactions for the future. These all contribute to being a more resilient leader; but you can’t do it all on your own and you need to keep working on it. Beating the downturn takes good health, mental resilience and focusing on your inner strengths. It also requires a collaborative approach and this is another key strength and area of expertise we have developed across both private and public sectors. And that is another subject for a blog!

 

Women in the Boardroom

On Sunday, Caroline was on BBC Scotland’s flagship Business programme discussing if there is a glass ceiling for women in the workplace? Follow the link here to hear the prgramme.

Is Cultural Matching the missing ingredient in collaboration?

I was recently brought in to help a partnership where the honeymoon period was well and truly over and it was proving hard to achieve all that looked possible while “courting”.  Some things were going well but there was still a lot more to be gained.  We certainly helped, but some hard thinking and honest evaluation earlier in the partnership could have avoided a lot of anguish.   Sometimes we are involved in the early stages, facilitating the initial joint discussions, however the real work of making collaboration work starts even before this.

You need to be asking two critical questions before any formal discussions:

  1. Is Collaboration the right answer?
  2. Are these really the right partners?

I’ll address alternatives to collaboration later.  So dealing with the second point: choosing the right partners can be very difficult.  The numbers seem right and the opportunity is clear so what can go wrong?  Resources, Shared objectives, Governance and Leadership all matter a great deal but not considering the impact of different cultures is one of the most common mistakes.

Differing organisational cultures (fundamentally the way things are done) can be big barriers to a successful partnership. It is very easy to trust “it will all work out” but once the unwritten rules that make up a culture come into play it is very easy to start to misunderstand or even doubt each other.  This then impacts on your mutual trust the cornerstone of good collaboration.

Once you are committed, changing the culture of either partner is very difficult, if not impossible. So before you reach that stage you need to be asking – “Can these cultures work together to deliver value for both of us?”

This is a really challenging question to answer involving unquantifiable cultures, sub-cultures, artefacts and layers.  The temptation is to ignore these challenging “soft” issues especially while caught up in resolving the other easier “hard” issues but doing so can put your whole project at risk from day one.

Initiated, designed and delivered  professionally, genuine collaborative working can offer both partners many advantages.  In fact, in the current economic environment collaboration can be the only way for organisations to thrive (or even survive).

Mentoring and why we need it!

Boards are still not properly reflecting the growing diversity of their markets and employees.

There have been several reports written about a shortage of women in boardroom positions, particularly over the last 2 years. We know from the International Centre for Women Leaders at Cranfield that only 12% of the FTSE 100 companies have female board members. On a positive note, there is an increase in companies with more than one woman board member, which research shows increases effectiveness substantially.

More recently, there is a growing belief that the economic crisis has increased the need for more women in the boardroom as rebuilding the economy requires a different emphasis on leadership. An Ernst & Young report from January this year concluded that it is time to use the resources of women to rebuild the world economy and made specific recommendations on how board practice needs to change, particularly in giving more scope to encouraging female candidates for new board positions.

All too often there are too few women in the pipeline gaining the relevant experience needed in the top executive roles. We need to be more proactive in the recruitment process, and although there are a number of voluntary initiatives underway, it seems more has to be done.

Following a range of discussions with a number of you over the last few months and the IOD Scotland’s women’s leadership event last September, we see an opportunity in Scotland to drive a “Women into the Boardroom” initiative through mentoring. Traditionally, mentoring is the long term passing on of support, guidance and advice. In the workplace it has tended to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses their greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff. This comes from the Greek myth where Odysseus entrusts the education of his son to his friend Mentor.

Much of the existing evidence has been both positive and encouraging as mentoring is a distinct activity which has become a widespread development tool. We all know of famous sports mentoring relationships such as Ian Botham being mentored by Brian Close, Kevin Keegan by Bill Shankly. There are many business mentoring relationships, notably Chris Gent and Arun Sarin at Vodafone and there are many more examples from politics and other fields.

Our own experience at Kynesis in designing and managing mentoring programmes has shown that mentoring has developed a huge amount of talent that otherwise may have left the organisation. Our programmes have been designed to support global culture change, mergers and acquisitions, talent management and in particular, succession planning for key roles –  key priorities for any growing business.

A number of vibrant women networks are alive and well in Scotland and the IOD is interested in how Mentoring in particular may be helpful in encouraging female executives to be ready to head for the Boardroom! What better way than to learn from someone who has done it?

To this end the IoD and Kynesis are currently driving this forward in Scotland.  Connecting the best of our rising talent to our those with proven experience.  The project is already delivering excellent results from some really interesting partnerships.

This is just the beginning. We know even more  top women will want to be involved in growing our next generation of female directors. Creating organisations with a senior team that reflects their markets and employees, fully equipped to lead into the future -what a difference we will make to Scotland!

So if you are keen to be involved either as a mentor or mentee – let us know.

Public sector = Bad people?

There’s a move afoot. People in the public sector are having to shift how they think about their job and how they work. Four years into the Scottish Government’s outcome-based approach, the advent of Scotland Performs and Single Outcome Agreements, the power of outcome-based planning is starting to be understood – if not realised.

Over generations, public sector workers have been held accountable for activity. Put together a plan at the beginning of the year and review progress on that plan. Success was largely about whether you did what you said you would do – or made a case for why it couldn’t be done.

Now we are moving to a world where plans start with the difference we intend to make rather than the things we put in place. This means that simply delivering what you said will not be enough – if it didn’t make the difference you intended.

Many public sector organisations are way more complex than private sector companies. Getting things done means collaborating with varied interest groups, in your own organisation and others. Making a difference means doing that – plus doing it in a much more flexible way.

Middle managers in particular now need to think in terms of the impact they have on citizens and service users, not on the programme of work they have committed to. They need to reflect on the effectiveness of what they are doing; monitoring impact, changing course in mid-stream and taking complex partnerships with them as they adapt.

The deep organisational culture change implicit in this is the single biggest lever in delivering efficiency while still delivering better services for citizens. To achieve this we need to see accountabilities deep in public sector organisations shifting dramatically. People need to see their roles framed differently and managers need to be able to coach and support staff through the change – and beyond.

There is a human danger in this. People who have worked in one way and with one mind set, for their entire career, will have to change. Many of them know only an output-based or process-based world. Indeed, either through career choice or inertia, they have selected to work in this world. They need to change. Some will not want to and we need to allow them to leave with dignity. Others will find the changes required difficult to understand or implement – they have no experience of this new way of working.

The danger is that they are branded as “bad people.” The reality is that this kind of fundamental shift can be enormously difficult. Trouble is I hear a lot of talk about service redesign (“real or imagined” is for another blog) but little focus on organisational and human development to make the change work. We need a step change in culture and in management capability if we are to meet the coming challenge.

Are our public bodies taking this seriously?