Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Have you forgotten your inspiration?

I met a client last week for coffee and I found myself recommending the work of Adam Kahane - an amazing facilitator who has worked on some really challenging issues (e.g. forming the new South Africa, drug cultures in South America, climate change etc) and written some of the most inspiring books I've read in a while.

I could wax lyrical about this man but what surprised me was that I had not thought about him for a while. Given this guy is a bit of a hero to me I found it a bit strange that I'd lost sight of his work and had to go and look him up all over again and get re-energised.

So I was wondering if anyone else out there has lost sight of any of their sources of inspiration and might need to reconnect to what has meaning and heart for them.

Here's a link of Adam talking at the RSA (34 min) - hope he does it for you too! Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Working with ‘Problem children’ – issues in coaching

Don’t get me wrong I love coaching 1-2-1 but have learnt to be wary when I’m asked to work with an organisation's ‘problem child’ – that person who doesn’t seem to quite fit in, or whose behaviours have ruffled feathers. “We need you to work with them” is often code for “We need you to fix them for us so they fit in”

My concern about this sort of request is that it puts the focus solely on the ‘problem child’ as opposed to the relationships at work. It is unfortunately all too common for example, to find that the ‘problem child’ has never had direct feedback and that the team they form part of have never had courageous conversations about how they are working together. In this situation the coach risks becoming some sort of surrogate for conversations that really ought to happen at work.

The most effective coaching assignments are those where the work includes the wider team rather than a ‘fix it’ conducted in splendid isolation. Coaching can’t afford to be the outsourced difficult conversation. Views? 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Don’t coach me, just tell me!

It happened again this week. I’m working with a group of leaders on their coaching skills and we’re talking about potential objections to using a coaching approach with their teams. “My team don’t want loads of questions, they don’t want me dancing around the handbags with them, they just want to be told what to do !” one manager pronounces.

I think this comes back to what you think coaching is... if you believe it us some form of elaborate guessing game then I can see how you can get in this sort of tangle. It would indeed be perverse to withhold useful information or expertise from a team member, making them play ‘read the bosses mind’ instead. No wonder their people regard 'coaching' as time wasting and potentially manipulative. However if you see coaching as a thinking partnership between two consenting and informed adults then maybe these confusions can be avoided.

Great coaching is always based on a relationship of trust and openness - leading questions and pointless obstruction destroy both.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

People Data – getting the wrong end of the stick.

I've become a bit worried about how we use people measurement tools of late - too often I think we confuse measuring something with changing something. Anyone who has been on a diet knows that the scales don't make us thinner ... even if we'd like to pretend it does. 

This issue was brilliantly illustrated by a Global team I worked with recently who were struggling to find more effective ways of working together.

I'd used a team 'climate' survey with them to provoke conversations about how they worked together. Each regional sub-teams were tasked with setting up a meeting to discuss their particular slice of the data. Most managers grabbed the opportunity and were able to have a very different (and better) conversation with their teams resulting in some really helpful changes. However one manager sent out the data in an email to his team with a directive to improve the lowest scores. Any coincidence that this was the group with the poorest overall scores in the first place?

So how does your organisation use ‘people data’? As a tool to provoke constructive dialogue and change or incite recriminations and yet more measurement?