I am back from a very interesting and thoroughly engaging conference. The Future of Work or FOW London last week had a great combination of senior business leaders and high end thinkers.  There was a very wide range of topics from working in the gig economy, impacts of “robotisation” and creative collaboration, to job share at senior level such as Group HR.

There was clearly a common theme, in that VUCA is here to stay, and the working environment is changing exponentially. The Darwin theory keeps on trundling. We have to be agile and adaptable as employees, but also as coaches. Opening speaker Sir Charlie Mayfield, CEO of the John Lewis Partnership was talking about the need for having, those difficult but authentic conversations with employees. The Waitrose supermarket chain has seen an increase from 12 to 30% in its use of self-checkouts. This of course is going to lead to the inevitable job displacement as the tech. revolution marches on. I blogged about this recently  with my lean consulting “hat”, on the German retail chain OTTO who are using sophisticated retail algorithms ( originally developed by CERN) and robotics to predict sales, and pick warehouse products. They were able to  fill shelves with 90% sales prediction accuracy. It is not just manual labour that is being displaced, but it is hitting the professional service sector. At the same conference we heard about the reduction in demand for junior lawyers as AI and software was getting sophisticated enough to do library searches, and pull together complex contracts. Senior lawyers would be required to review and approve. This of course will reduce job demand in the early years, and then that of course raises questions of potential future skills and experience shortages. In Martin Ford’s 2015  book, “The rise of the Robots” , he talks about the technology threat and the potential trigger for mass unemployment. The advances are great, but create huge cultural and physical dilemmas. As part of the recent UK Brexit debate, voters and workers were asked whether they  immigration as a threat. The answer was clear, they saw “Automation” as a bigger threat.

As coaches we have a huge opportunity to help this process by giving support / guidance in times  of uncertainty, but most importantly facilitating change in a positive way with authenticity. We can guide both employees and leaders, and encourage the leaders to have the “Difficult Conversations” , and the employees not to be shy and come forward with their concerns. We also need to look at new and innovative approaches, such as Systemic Team Coaching .

I listened to a brilliant talk by Peter Hawkins yesterday of both Renewal Associates and Henley Business School. His point was clear, we are clearly in the VUCA world now and it is accelerating. He has interviewed CEO’s and business leaders, and they have confirmed VUCA as the new reality. We need some radical thinking around coaching practice. We need to be able to coach systemically, and not just coach the people in teams but the connections between them, and furthermore the connections between teams. The majority of businesses are now SME’s and start-ups, and even collaborations. This also reinforces the requirement for Systemic Team Coaching. I can also see a huge overlap between this, and that we do in the operational excellence space with “Lean” which is all about team engagement and rapid deployment of critical change.

I am looking forward to the 3rd edition of his  book on the subject which will be out on July 11th.

As we start the week that is “Mental Health Awareness Week“, there have already been great recent initiatives on this. Princes Harry and William with their openness and support for recent UK events like the London Marathon. Raising awareness is the first step of the journey. It is more prevalent than ever in this VUCA world we live in. More stresses and strains for individuals then ever before, and the environment is only going to get tougher. I remember listening to a psychologist on the radio talking about “Executive Stress”.  In reality our executives are probably less stressed than people lower down the hierarchy, and also in the close contact professions like medicine and teaching. The theory is simple, those further up the chain have more control of their respective environments, time to plan, and the bandwidth i.e teams to help them. This is another great example of where science and particularly physics overlaps with emotions and psychology. In physics we have the equation stress(pressure)=force/area. The same applies in life, we can reduce our stress by having broader shoulders.

So that is easy said, but not necessarily easily done.  We can increase the size of our shoulders, by taking accountability for our behaviour, our demeanour, and influencing as best we can our personal environment. Again easily said, but not so easily done.  One of the concepts I have discussed before is that of energy “Energy Leadership“. Knowing how we show up in the world “energetically” can significantly help our self awareness, mindfulness and personal performance. If you want to know more on how you can do this please contact us, or visit our move forward page.

 

There is significant discussion about “Transformation“, specifically  cultural transformation. I regularly go into  consulting clients, and they ask for the “Cultural Transformation” magic bullet.  I politely remind them that there is no magic bullet. Firstly. I tell them that I can facilitate the transformation, but they have to do it themselves. If they don’t own it, the changes won’t be sustainable.

There are three key elements to transformation, Passion, Behavioural Shift and Process Improvement. I liken these to a 3-legged stool, you break one leg and the stool falls over. The change will not happen unless you have all three elements working in harmony. So if we talk about the first element, Passion, what does it take to get this ? One might assume that if people or persons want some change, the passion is already there. This could be true, but If people have been told by others they must initiate a transformation, then they may not necessarily have the passion for it. However we can improve peoples’ passion through better  understanding, authenticity and coaching their Energy. Leaders with greater energy, will be more powerful and passionate about what they do.

So what about Behavioural Shift. This can also be easily coached, assuming the people want to be coached on it. The great global coaching guru Marshall  C Goldsmith is a master at this. This is amply covered in a number of his books including the most famous one “What got you here, won’t get you there” However clients must want to be coached in this area. Coaching is about “Pull” not “Push”. Clients must desire to be coached and “Pull” the coaching. This is particularly pertinent in the area of behavioural shift. Nobody with inappropriate behaviour wants to be judged.

Finally we need to think about the third leg of the stool . This is about the “Process Improvement”, whether it be a business process or a physical process. We can have all the passion and behavioural shifts in the world, but with out a shift in our processes, we will not transform ourselves or organisations. This is the tangible or visible work, which is sometimes characterised as, or attributed to the processing and logical part of our brain. So, how do we coach for this ? This is where we engage, raise the awareness of the individual or team, and guide them down a path to process improvement. We can guide them in the value of process improvement. This is where coaching and consulting and coaching overlap. I quite often find that my “Lean” approach helps a lot here. However if I am coaching, I do ask for permission to “consult” so as not to devalue the coaching in any way.

If we are able to help clients achieve this, it is a major step forward and involves a lot of work. I also use a lot of metaphors in this process, and use this process to help clients build connections between ideas and concepts. This is extremely powerful because it aids self facilitation, and plants “seeds” within clients. Seed planting is also very powerful because it triggers self reflection.  My most successful clients are capable of building bridges and connections. I liken it to cross or strut bracing in construction. The more connections or braces a bridge has, the stronger and ultimately more sustainable a bridge will be. Conversely the less connections, the more likelihood of failure.  I talked about energy earlier, but not only does improved energy help create passion, but it helps us see links and connections, that otherwise we would not have seen.

If things are working properly, we will have left and right “brains” working in total harmony. Ultimately everything needs to be connected

I recently came across a great quotation, “Successful People work on the skill set and don’t rely on their talent”. This is directly linked to coaching because in order to truly work on our skill set, we need to be both driven, and self-aware. These are two key elements that coaching clients have in abundance. The quotation is founded on the principle that we can improve continuously if we have the desire to do so. The self-awareness facilitates the desire. For people who are already on that journey, effective coaching can be an “accelerator”. For those that have a sense that working on their skill set is what they need to do, then coaching  can be an “enabler”.

 

I have to say the Friday Feeling is particularly good today. My son has turned 18, and we will be celebrating tonight. At these times, we talk about physical and emotional maturity, however collaboration is critical to everything we do. One element that exists in families is “unconditional collaboration”. We underestimate the power of unconditional collaboration which can enable the development of things way beyond our individual imaginations. With openness and collaboration we can create the most amazing things. This is founded on trust and authenticity which is the cornerstone of family life. I am very fortunate that this exists in my family, but even more fortunate that it exists with my work partners, which will in turn allow us to create things beyond our initial imagination, and have a positive impact on the world around us. Watch this space…..

I have been reflecting on “Energy” recently mainly in the context  of Leadership. The ELI or Energy Leadership Index Assessment is one of the powerful tools the iPEC trained coaches can use as a pre-cursor to a powerful coaching relationship.

The process involves understanding how we show up in the world relative to our ARL or Average Resonating Level of Energy. Those with higher ARL’s or E-Factors generally have a more fulfilling life. However, our energy at any one time does vary depending on our personal self-awareness and situation.  I can relate a very personal story to this concept. Unfortunately before the recent Christmas break, I picked up a medical condition out of the blue. It hit me hard, and I spent some time in hospital. Fortunately my medical team are now working hard to reduce the physical symptoms, and I am now stable. I went through every energy level from level 1 (playing the victim) to Level 2 (conflict), I can fight this.  I am now at levels 4 and 5 , “serving” and “win-win”. Being able to recognise this is immensely powerful, and helped me through the journey quicker, certainly through the lower catabolic levels (1&2).  If you want to know more, please click the links  and/or even take the ELI assessment by clicking the Take Action button.

 

Being able to challenge in a respectful way is an underrated and under utilised skill. It is interesting to see how social media is developing. Its intent to let everyone publish, is having some positive effects. There are of course some of the obvious adverse affects such as “Public Ranting” , and “Jingoistic Language”. However I see another  less obvious side effect. For those involved in social media because they enjoy it, but have not yet turned off, I see  two emerging camps. There are those that seem to become more and more politicised and enjoy sharing more and more, but worryingly there are those who are drawing away and shutting down for fear of retribution and the adverse publicity based on their opinions. This has been much publicised in the context of trolling and free speech. The whole trend for “Fake News” is also exacerbating the problem. I see a subtle and more concerning trend. The more presentations and workshops I go to, the less people I see challenging the speaker or presenter. I am still unsure what is driving this, but I fear people are losing the skills to challenge in a positive and respectful way. If I see something that is blatantly incorrect, I will challenge. Challenging with knowledge and confidence edifies the debate, and helps others understand better. This is about confidence, and skill in the language, both verbal and body, that we use.

I can see to a certain extent why people won’t challenge in large arenas or on social media, but there is no reason why we should not challenge in forums and presentations. This is another area where coaching can help. Coaching can help remove these confidence or skill blockers so please contact us.

 

Having a strong network in coaching is as as important as any part of your personal or business life. We all know that networks have become increasingly more important, especially with remote working, and the reduction in direct social contact on a daily basis. So how do we maintain an effective network ?

The key word here is “effective”. Firstly the network needs to be “Authentic” , which we have covered earlier http://wp.me/p74y6m-93 .  Authentic in this context means that all those within the network not only trust each other, but buy into the overall mission/vision of the network . The network does not need to have a formal vision or mission, but it needs to know what it stands for, and what it is going to support or publish. The individuals need to contribute equally as best they can and help each other out when required. Even-though the group will have similar values, the members should have differing and complimentary skills.

This is how we can maintain a strong network. The network is more powerful than the sum of the individual parts, and stronger for being tighter. A strong network, will deliver better results with the right ethos and framework.

I have written about authenticity before. I am writing this post in the context of balance. There seems to be significant copy in social media about the positives and negatives of coaching. Some are extremely positive, with very positive and life changing experiences. Some bloggers are less happy, thinking that the coaching industry, and they use the word industry, is a “sham”. Their particular point is around the almost evangelical business like approach that some coaches use. Furthermore they believe that some of the coaches, are using their NLP skills to sell coaching in a cynical way. This of course may be true, but I can say categorically the coaches in my network do not use this approach. Yes we are in business, as it is our livelihood, but we intend to help facilitate genuine life changes that will ultimately sustainable by the client. This is all about personal values and “Authenticity” Ultimately this will be down to the individuals involved, but I would guide any perspective client to have a face 2 face with the coach, or at least a Skype /Call to check them out. Strong and experienced coaches, will have no problem with this at all, and would welcome it.

It is funny what a major life changing event can do. Since setting up on my own, I have had numerous dialogues with friends, associates, ex-colleagues who wanted to understand my decision making process, because they are considering it too. I enjoy working at what I call the “Helicopter” level, where you look down from above at everything and take a strategic view, but we also have to get into the “Weeds” or the detail, in order to check and calibrate. I see this as loosely analogous to “Heart vs.Head” , where quite often the “Heart” is the strategic piece. In any significant decision making process, it is important that we get the balance right, between heart and head. There is no quick fix or magic formula. It comes with self-awareness and experience. We sometimes think that gaining experience is obvious, but we have to be open-minded enough to learn from our experiences for it to be a true experience. This is where the self-awareness can help. These two are inexorably linked. N.L.P. and coaching techniques, such as anchors, triggers and metaphors can help with our self-awareness. Finally, it is OK to get it wrong, because we sometimes need to play and experiment, that all builds on our experience.

The festive break is always a time for reflection. Quite often we ask the question what we are doing, or are we in the right job ? This is good, but we also need to be careful of the “lemming effect”, where we are considering a move because others are considering it. This is sometimes known as “group-think” or a cognitive bias. This is where we need to use all areas of our brain, the processing and logic side, as well as the emotional side. This should not prevent us from doing what is right, but ensures balance, and all options are considered. It  sounds very simple, but make list of the positives and negatives, and more importantly have a plan. Ensure that you are working on a plan, before you jump ship to avoid using the life belt. Some plans can take weeks, some years depending on  what you want to do, and the magnitude of the change. If you have financial commitments, make sure you can protect your financial security, or at least have an interim solution.  Many people jump for emotional reasons, and land into trouble. It is difficult to stay focused on your new endeavours with financial worries. Again, all these elements should not stop you, but are there to ease the transition. Everyones personal circumstances are different.

Follow your passion, but use that passion to good effect.

We are now at the time where most of us will be gearing up for a fresh start in 2017. Some have said that with changing geopolitical landscape that 2016 was a bad year. I think this is very difficult to calibrate or judge, and is totally dependent on the “Minds Eye” or the lens we look at things through. With the right mindset our years will always be strong. However we need to ramp up wisely and follow our intended paths. Sometimes we feel the need to dive in at full pace, but if we go too fast we can lose our peripheral vision. Our peripheral vision allows us to monitor the ever changing landscape, and adjust accordingly without deviating from our path. I heard a great quote a few years back, “We need to be one step ahead, but not two”. This really resonated with me as it means that by staying just ahead of the curve, we don’t lose sight of what is changing around us. The danger being that our path is not corrected accordingly, thus allowing us to follow our fundamental goals in away that embraces what is around us.

We know that Xmas can be a time of festivity and fun, but it can also be stressful for some. The whole occasion creates massive expectations  for those involved, and emotions can run high. If you feel getting into this zone, take a time out. I find listening to relaxing music or meditation, or going for a walk can help a lot. Remember if you see it happening to somebody else, don’t judge but use your coaching and observation skills wisely and carefully.

Have a great one everyone.

Collaboration is a much used term these days, some say over used ? So what does it really mean ? I like to have my own clear definition, which is the unconditional sharing of information or giving / receiving help or support for the mutual benefit of all parties. The key word here is unconditional, because this is both authentic, and it means that the giver is not expecting anything in return. Giving without expectation is a way more powerful experience,  and will harvest way better long term returns, whether it be in a personal relationship or business. Fortunately for me I was able to grasp this on my journey to self-awareness and had the chance to practice it. I try to do this now as much as I can, and can say it has reaped benefits unconditionally, with a way richer experience. So when you get the opportunity please try.

I mentioned in an earlier post that is important fro me to “dig deep”, as I start my new business. I have found that this is a rewarding experience. When you dig internally to different levels you have not experienced before, you discover qualities that you thought you did not have.  These newer found qualities of patience and resilience should help me go forward, and increase my confidence. As a corollary, my energy levels have gone up. I remember from my coaching diploma that “Energy attracts Like Energy” so I am looking forward to some energetic business engagements and relationships.

Just starting “Week One” of my new totally independent career. it is a mixture of all emotions from minor fear to total excitement. Leaving a  secure job was a bold move, but I believe the right one for me. I will have to dig deep and rely on my coaching skills, self awareness to stay focused and true. I have had some great notes of support from all quarters. One recurring theme was that everyone has been asking what is it like now. There are of course many differences, but for me the most noticeable one for me, is that I don’t feel the need to be connected to my phone or laptop continuously for fear of missing that vital note or message. I am sure it will get more lonely and I will thus get more anxious in the short term, as I wait for work to build up, but the feeling is definitely good.

I happened to be in London the other week, and I was walking back from a meeting at the end of the day towards Piccadilly Circus Tube Station. I find the heart of London a magical place at this time of year, particularly before Christmas and as it goes dusk. I had a moment before my train, so I walked into my beloved Lotus Shop on Regent Street to get another energy shot. I was lucky enough to own a Lotus Sports Car a few years back, and I still yearn for another when I have enough money. I love the original ethos of Lotus, and that of Colin Chapman, its founder, and what they espoused in 60’s , 70’s, 80’s and beyond. The idea, that small could be great, the unthinkable could be done, and the challenge of unconventional thinking still resonates with me.

I was approached by a lovely sales assistant, and I was able to explain that I was not position to buy anything, but was just looking and enjoying the moment. She was interested to hear some of my stories with racing, the conversation quickly moved on to the ethos of Lotus, and being open minded. As it was the end of the day, and before closure the shop was empty. A couple of the other assistants, who had just completed some studies joined the conversation. We moved onto careers and personal development and the need to keep moving and adapting. We had a fantastic and edifying conversation, and it was an excellent way to round the day. It left a really good feeling with all of us, and after talking about careers, I had a sense that they had “Hope” . I guess my point is that I had a choice, I could have walked out having seen what I wanted to see. Talking is good, and you never know how a conversation will develop, and generally it ends up in a positive place.

 

Times of significant organisational change can be very challenging for most. Leaders will have to make some significant and challenging decisions. This will be exactly the time when leaders will need a strong coach. It is incumbent on any coach in this situation, to stay strong, focussed on shifting energy and helping the client move quickly. The coach needs to show sensitivity, but not get stuck or embroiled in the client’s trials and tribulations. This is when excellent coaches can add considerable value that won’t be forgotten.