Why is the use of Coaching increasing?

January 17, 2011

The simple answer is because it achieves results; even for the most gifted. It would be unheard of for any of today’s top sports champions preparing without one, such is the value that a Coach brings. The same is becoming true within the business world.

So, how can it help?

In today’s market, the challenge is to achieve more with less resource and the timeframes that we have to work within are being compressed too. Keeping up, let alone getting ahead of the game is becoming more and more demanding.

That’s why a study of Fortune 500 Companies found that nearly 40% use Executive Coaching as part of their Leadership development process to help people become more productive.

Unlike Training, Coaching directly translates into doing activity that is directly relevant and this translates into business impact. And this is achieved regardless of the size of organisation.

Coaching is an excellent way of improving leadership and management skills, orientating staff to a new role or job task and generally improving staff interactions, as it can help individuals align themselves to colleagues working styles.

CIPD research has identified that the nine drivers that create a need for Coaching are:

– Rapidly evolving markets
– Individual responsibility for development
– Financial impact of poor performance
– Development strategy
– Supports other learning
– Requested by employees
– Need for lifelong learning
– Improves decision making
– Targeted, just in time development

The Manchester Group reported that moving from Training to a combination of Training and Coaching increased productivity from 22 to 88%.

Is that the kind of result you would like to achieve? Then let’s discuss.

Call me on 07971 006 446 or join me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Succeed in 2011 – KIS and get on

January 4, 2011

Business doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact the basics are very simple, so keep it that way, why complicate things. It’s all about keeping it simple and on track – that’s the challenge most of us face.

So, my 5 Mantra’s for 2011 would be:

– Create a business plan and work it (and it might just be one page)
– Remember, cash flow is king
– Profitability rather than the vanity of turnover should be the goal
– From day one, have an exit route that leverages on what you are doing
– If you don’t love your business, do something else.

If you can manage to do all that you won’t go far wrong.

And if it’s a struggle, executive coaching is a great way to gain clarity, objectivity and focus.

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Just what is a ‘Critical Friend’?

September 16, 2010

Someone asked me about this, as they thought that criticism and friendship didn’t really go together. And in the cosy world of chatting with your mates, they are right!

However, in the tough commercial world these two aspects go together hand in glove. It’s a powerful mix too, a cross between Coach, Mentor and Critic.

What I’m talking about here is adding a kind of ruthless positiveness to your agenda, one that really helps fine tune plans by providing a sounding board and reality check.

There’s an element of tough love, as an outsider I can question and challenge in a way that people working within your organisation never could.

It’s quite possible to be critical and constructive at the same time.

It’s about adding lots of fresh thinking to the mix, in a manner that really assists the decision making process. And this is one of the areas of consultancy that I love, as ideas from different industries can be highly transferable.

Something that never ceases to amaze me is how organisations often organise customer support around their own needs rather than those of their customers. They wouldn’t do this if they had a Critical Friend.

A Critical Friend can also introduce new ideas into difficult discussion areas, and help you take a 360 degree walk around the issues you face. This will help you really think deeply about all the possible solutions, hence becoming more confident with the decisions you are making.

So being a Critical Friend is a mixture of tough love, acting as a sounding board and about injecting new ways of thinking to help organisations?

Yes it is. But above all it’s about being honest and open providing realistic and reflective support so that those you are working with, achieve their goals faster and more efficiently.

If you would like me to be your Critical Friend, please call me for an informal chat on 07971 006 446.

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How to create winning business ideas – the final chapter

August 24, 2010

If you have been following this series, by now you will have added a new dimension to make Brainstorming more productive. But, having gathered the necessary information and mentally digested it, what do you do next?

Before I describe the final stage of the process, if you wish to read Parts One and Two, click on the hyperlinks.

The next step is very easy. Do nothing, stop thinking about it, drop the whole subject and put your subconscious mind to work. Turn to whatever you do that stimulates your imagination and emotions; music, theatre, arts, extreme sport.

Behave rather like Sherlock Holmes dragging Dr Watson off to the theatre half way through solving a case; incredibly irritating for Watson, but essential for Holmes’s creative process.

Now, if you’ve done your preparation work effectively, the idea will suddenly appear out of the blue, often when you are least expecting it. Sometimes this is described as a ‘Flash in the Pan’ or having a ‘Eureka moment’.

Then you get to the very last stage; is your idea ‘Fit for purpose’?

And this is often the hardest, as it means exposing it to the criticism of others to shape and develop the idea to practical usefulness.

These stages may all seem to be very obvious and they are. The secret is to diligently complete them in sequence. The half tone printing press was invented through this technique. You never know, that next big invention might have your name on it.

If you want to buy James Webb Young’s book, you will find it here. It’s a fascinating book and takes less than an hour to read; some great reviews too.

Alternatively, if self-help isn’t for you, three of my one-to-one coaching sessions will help you through the process, to help you approach any specific problems you wish to solve.

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How to create winning business ideas – part two

August 17, 2010

If you followed my idea from last week, you will have added a new dimension to Brainstorming, to make it more productive. Now that you have gathered information specific to your market and the issue you want to solve, what do you do next?

I’m going to describe the next stage in the process, but before I do click here if you want to read part one .

The next challenge, after the information gathering, is to mentally chew over and digest all this information. It is difficult to describe a type of thought process that goes on inside someone’s head, so bear with me.

Minutely examine each piece of information, from as many perspectives and contexts as you can. Really get to know it inside out; just like the character of a good friend. Then lay the bits of information out in your mind, like the pieces of a jigsaw on a table, and start to bring different pieces next to each other.

Explore their relationship with each other. Where are the connections? Can you somehow get them to fit together?

At this point you are not looking for solutions, simply to bring facts together that seem to have some sort of a relationship with each other, however vague.

Don’t try to examine this information too literally or directly. It’s like listening to music, rather than working out from the score what it will sound like.

Two things will now start to happen.

Firstly, you will get fragments of half ideas. However incomplete or crazy they sound, write them down – it helps the mental digestion process.

Secondly, when you start to get mentally tired – work through this and keep going – you will soon get your second layer of mental energy.

Once you get your second layer of mental energy, keep going, don’t stop too soon. Only stop when everything has become a completely hopeless jumble in your mind. No clear insights, no answers – everything just seems to be spinning about. When you have reached this point the second stage of the process is complete.

Next week I’ll describe what to do next, the last part of the process. If you click on the subscribe link, top right, the post will be sent to you automatically.

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How to create winning business ideas

August 9, 2010

Brainstorming can be very one dimensional. Minds go blank and participants can feel awkward about contributing. So just how can you and the team create winning ideas, to inspire and motivate, in these difficult times?

The good news is that creativity and ideas generation can be approached as a process. This means that anybody with an interest in exploring new ways of doing things, who cares to apply themselves, can do it.

And you don’t have to be creative or free thinking. The art of producing ideas is down to two things; principles and method. James Webb Young is the inventor of the process, described in his book, “A Technique for Producing Ideas”.

The principle is straightforward. That a new idea is simply discovering a new combination of existing elements and that the ability to make these connections arises from the way people view relationships.

There are five stages to the process and for it to work, each stage must be completed methodically, conscientiously and in the correct order.

Today, I’m going to describe the first stage. Let’s take a hypothetical problem, albeit a very common one in the current market place.

“Client buying patterns have changed. Their purchase decisions are now much more price sensitive and have you started to lose sales to competitors?”

You need to come up with ways of preventing this.

The first stage is conceptually simple, yet a real challenge to achieve. You and your team need to explore and collect the raw data surrounding this problem.

The challenge is to establish the minutiae of what’s specifically going on – putting the problem under the electron microscope to examine the detail from every angle. You also need to gather general information about what’s happening in the market place too.

Most of us start to find this irksome after a while and the temptation is to stop gathering and start looking for the solution. Don’t, the more diligent you are with the gathering task, the better your chances of success later.

Next week I’ll describe what to do next with the information you have gathered. If you click on the subscribe link, top right, the post will be sent to you automatically.

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Six principles to achieve a winning marketing direction

March 1, 2010

When you come to planning the marketing approach for your product or service, these are the six key questions to ask yourself, to make sure you get the best possible result.

1. What’s the ‘hook’ to make people interested and want to find out more?
Use creativity to catch people’s attention. Get them to spend time looking at your offer and create a desire within them to want to learn more. So what’s inherently interesting and special about your product or service, to make them want to do this?

2. Having ‘hooked’ people to start with, now’s the time to sell the benefits.
People buy benefits, not features. Benefits are what a product or service will do for them. That could be emotional, something communicating status. Practical, a benefit that is time saving. Or convenience; such as we deliver to you. Whatever people buy, they do so because of benefits. So the question to ask, from the consumer’s perspective, is “What’s in it for me”? The major benefit should follow from the ‘hook and don’t promote more than one or two benefits to start with.

3. Make sure your features and benefits are as believable as possible.
Write them in such a way that they will not be questioned and simply accepted. For a paint Company it might be a trusted Interior Designer saying something like, “I use xyz paint with kryptonite, because it quickly dries to a rock hard, smooth finish, avoiding dust and brush marks, giving a professional result every time”.

4. Get people’s attention.
People filter advertising out, unless it has something of interest to them. But avoid the creativity trap that makes the advertisement more interesting than the product it’s promoting. You don’t want people remembering the ad. and either associating it with the wrong product or failing to recall it at all!

5. Give people a ‘Call to Action’.
Be very clear about what you want them to do next. Call-in, email, text or phone for more information. Give them something free in return, as a thank-you for doing this. Tell people exactly what to do next, or some will do nothing even when interested.

6. Check your creativity works and that you are communicating clearly.
Make sure readers get the message and the whole message at that. Make sure there isn’t room for misunderstandings, even when they are reading it whilst doing other things. If 15% fail to get the right message that’s a lot of misinformed people that you are paying to promote to – you want 100% understanding.

Finally, compare your finished advertisement, commercial, letter, or brochure against the original creative approach. Does the idea still hold up against these six principles? If it doesn’t, then rethink the idea so that it does.

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