It might look good, but you lose performance when you spin the wheels

January 28, 2013


A Coaching trend has appeared where it’s OK failing, so long as you partly succeed. Is this strategy in the Client’s or Coach’s best interest?

The majority of people will have come across the mnemonic SMART, when it comes to setting goals. Referring to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.

Great goals, reached through individual centric conversations, meet all these criteria. Studies have concluded, time and time again, that clarity of purpose and single mindedness are key reasons why successful people succeed which is why Coaching mimics this.

The Coach’s challenge, is to help clients set goals that really do stretch them i.e. they are just about attainable, with much effort. What you don’t want are goals so simple everyone will achieve them or so difficult that 99% of people will fail.

Because our society tends to measure success/failure in black and white, this creates a dilemma for Coaches. If goals aren’t 100% achieved, unpicking the reasons why can be very de-motivational. It also questions the Coach’s competency too, so the temptation is to arrive at less challenging goals.

Add to this the, “Get out of jail free card”, that it’s OK to achieve 75% (for example) of your goal and you sow the seed that everything is just fine, which it isn’t.

What this approach fails to do is explore the dynamics of the journey, so a clearer line is needed. I prefer adding ER, (Evaluate and Reevaluate) to create SMARTER, rather than SMART Goals. This way you can acknowledge how circumstances change and how reflection and learning are crucial to effective Coaching.

It also means that with appropriate effort, the Client really gets to grip with the challenge, so they sprint off the line reaching their goal in the fastest possible time!

Jonathan Wainwright enables organisations to create commercial success through digital marketing, traditional communications and team development.

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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.

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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 – 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 can you keep your staff motivated in difficult times?

July 12, 2010

Downturn, redundancy, pay freezes, recession are not words that inspire and motivate staff. So in times such as we have now, here are some ideas to help you keep your staff focussed, positive and getting a buzz out of working for your organisation.

The CIPD, in a survey of 2000 workers in 2007, established that 43% of employees are dissatisfied with the relationship they have with their line Manager. I doubt that this situation has improved.

The reasons for this are also strikingly clear:

– Poor Work/Life balance.
– Poor acknowledgement of their performance.
– Poor prospects, stuck in the same role for too long.
– Poor communication from the top.

So here are four ways to stop this happening?

1. Start a Talent Management Programme – encourage individual’s to develop their talents and skills within a blame free culture.
2. Communicate your organisation’s vision and strategy. Clearly show how decisions are reached and the direction the organisation is going. Make this a priority and make it precise.
3. Create a Coaching and Learning Culture. Encourage staff to work outside of their comfort zones to provide a challenge and help with their self development.
4. Introduce a 360 degree evaluation process, so that any Manager/Staff issues can be identified and worked through.

These activities will all help reduce staff turnover, motivate staff and help them achieve better performance for your organisation.

When you consider the disruption that staff leaving causes and the cost of recruitment and initial training, this type of activity is one of the best investments you can make in today’s challenging times.

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Why is a ‘Business Plan’ important to the Venture Capitalist?

April 6, 2010

There are more clichés and misunderstandings surrounding business plans than any other part of the capital raising process. These range from the belief that plans are not needed because my concept is so good that it ‘sells itself’, to the ‘thicker the better’ school of business plans.

The failure of both of these approaches stems from a misunderstanding of the role of the business plan in the venture capital world. Unlike ‘Dragon’s Den’, no venture capital firm or angel (defined as persons who invest their own money in businesses) hears a presentation or reads a plan and then writes a cheque on the spot.

An angel is no different than a capital venture firm in his or her desire to make a prudent investment. They want experienced management, collateral, growth industries and significant returns on their investment for the least amount of risk.

People sometimes think that angel investors suspend all prudent business practices and just throw money at any project presented by entrepreneurs. Nothing can be further from the truth. Generally speaking each venture capital source must present the plan to a committee or advisors to determine the next steps. The business plan is the door opener, if the plan is favourably received the firm or individual will proceed to the next step, if not then the potential investment stops right there.

So, what does the venture capital community want to see in a business plan? The projects that move forward are selected because they have a ‘business comfort level’ that encourages further pursuit. If a project or business is inherently unsound, a skilfully drafted plan does not cure the flaws, nor does a poorly written plan automatically condemn an excellent company’s chances for financing, however it does make it significantly more difficult.

Most proposals fall in between these two options, and this demonstrates just how crucial the business plan is.

Venture Capital sources want to see the following 7 key questions answered in the plan:

1. What is unique about this company or project? Not necessarily a unique product, but one with growth potential that sets it apart from other industry members or from other proposals received

2. What does the company do? They must effectively communicate the company’s product and services and the operations of the company

3. How does or will the company attain profitability? This area entails discussion of the market and competition as well an analysis of areas such as revenue and profit margins

4. What benefit will be derived from a capital infusion? In other words how will the proceeds of the financing be utilised and what results benefiting the investor will be achieved. This should translate into increased revenues and profits and an excellent return on investment

5. Is management capable of implementing the business plan? Many investors consider this the most important element of a business plan. An investor must be comfortable with the experience and abilities of the management team. An outstanding management team may have the ability to overcome other deficiencies in the plan

6. Do the financial projections make sense? Over optimistic projections reflects on management’s judgment. Projections can be aggressive, but must be within the realm of the real business world

7. Is there an exit strategy for the investor? Does this business have the potential to merge, be acquired, go public or buy out the investor? This is important, since one of the most popular venture capital vehicles is the convertible debenture. The investor must be confident that either the debt payments can be sustained or that their stock conversion rights have great potential.

If the business plan effectively answers these seven questions, then it has served its purpose.

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Employee Engagement – more people need to ‘get it’ and more people need to ‘do it’

January 28, 2010

With growth at 0.1%, enhancing performance through Employee Engagement has never been more crucial. An incisive government report by MacLeod and Clarke, takes an in-depth view. Some of the outcomes they identify could make a staggering impact upon our economy.

But what is Employee Engagement. Is it something magical for big companies or is it something that SME’s can embrace?

A psychologist will probably tell you it’s a muddled term. They will have a clinical description, defining it as part attitude, part behaviour and part outcome. Business Leaders will describe it emotionally, ‘you will know it when you see it’. The outcome is that it can mean different things to different people and it can also neatly fall into that ‘not for us’ category, as it is intangible.

I see it happening when an organisation’s employees have a sense of individual belonging towards the business. When they each feel a personal motivation to do everything in their power to help it succeed and take pride in that. When they have a positive attitude and are prepared to go the extra mile to make things happen.

However, it isn’t just about engaging with people. It’s about staying engaged with them, keeping the fire stoked.

And when achieved, this is the kind of positive, very measureable economic impact it has – nothing fluffy at all:

1. The CBI claims sickness costs the UK economy £13.4bn a year, with double the days lost amongst disengaged workforces

2. A CIPD report highlights that 70% of Engaged Employees know how to meet customer needs. This drops to 17% where disengaged

3. Gallup have established that 67% of Engaged Employees advocate their company with 68% actively recommending it against 3% and 13% of the disengaged

4. Engaged Employees are 87% less likely than the disengaged to leave an organisation.

This intuitively underpins what most people think. It also highlights the massive difference to an organisation it can make, which means it should be a topic at the top of most Leaders’ agendas.

So what are the techniques that can be used to help Leaders develop an engaged workforce?

1. Assessment – in a safe environment explore Leadership style and create an Action Plan to progress and improve it

2. Master Classes – share, with others, experiences and learn from peers

3. Coaching and Mentoring – explore the learning that comes when you look at something through different eyes

4. ‘In work’ Learning – refine an Action Plan based upon practical support of how others would provide solutions to real life problems

5. Shadowing and Exchanges – shadow peers in their place of work, learn from their approach and share outcomes to help both parties become more effective.

Think of it as a journey, rather than a programme.

To achieve an Engaged workforce is hard work, but the rewards that can be enjoyed are quite sensational.

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