Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Trust - the new engagement?

What creates engagement? This seems to be the Holy Grail question at the moment, as business and industry search for ever more creative ways to improve the scores on the annual engagement survey.

What we do know is that the relationship between manager and subordinate is key. If you don't get on with your boss then the chances are you won't be as engaged as you could be at work. All the sophisticated reward and recognition schemes devised by HR are fighting an uphill battle in their attempt to win over the hearts and minds of the workforce if the leader-team relationship has gone sour.

Key to the manager- subordinate relationship to me is 'Trust' -  does the manager display genuine trust in their team or are they merely waiting to catch their team doing something wrong? Is the team member hanging on to ancient grievances about their boss, waiting for the moment when they can re-enact them, and prove to themselves once more that the manager is out to get them.

Trust is not something we typically talk about at work - but like all relationships is the bed rock of how we get on with folks. So maybe we should talk less about engagement at work and find the courage to do something about trust.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Support and Challenge - issues in coaching

I work with a lot of leaders to help them develop and hone their coaching skills. A common misapprehension amongst them, especially in the early days, is that coaching is some sort of cosy supportive relationship -- usually involving a lot of open ended questions and not a lot else. The phrase 'pink and fluffy' comes to mind.

Daloz's Support & Challenge model
While I do believe part of the role of a Coaching-Manager is to support their team, I also believe that they are there to challenge them to do more and continuously raising the bar. The balance of support and challenge is therefore crucial to effective coaching - too much support and coaching becomes a cosy chat, too much challenge and the team will head for the hills. This is a case of 'and' not 'either/or'. When the balance is right, coaching is both fun and stretching, working right at the edge of what is possible.

Coaches and Coaching Managers therefore need to know which they find most challenging  - being supportive or being challenging - and learn ways to ensure they bring both into their work in the right quantities and at the right time. No challenge there then!

Source: Daloz,L. (1986), Effective teaching and mentoring: realising the transformational power of adult learning experiences.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

"You give me confidence" - issues in coaching

So I'm sitting in a workshop and one of my delegates leans over and says "You give me confidence!" My first reaction is to blush  and my second is puzzlement - how on earth could I do that? I understand that positive encouragement and support from others bolsters people but does it build self-confidence? What happens when nobody is around to encourage us or affirm our actions -- what do we draw on then? Surely self-confidence is exactly that - our positive belief in our own efficacy -- and not someone else's good opinion.
We only grow our confidence by taking risks in life - having a go at the things we find a tad scary or uncomfortable. "Feel the fear and do it anyway" as Susan Jeffers used to say. That's why great coaches include an element of experimentation and graduated risk taking in their work with clients. Only by doing more do we learn to become more.

Self-confidence by definition is a positive belief we form about ourselves. While we expect others to 'give us confidence' we are going to have to wait a long time to feel good about ourselves. Dependency on outside sources, including well meaning coaches, does us no good in the long run.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The ‘imposter syndrome’ – issues in coaching

If I had to name one single issue that appears time and again in coaching assignments it would have to be self-esteem and confidence issues. Whether people have too much or too little, it just seems to be an issue that keeps on coming up.

Take a recent client – a high-flying senior executive who by just about every possible measure could be considered successful - she even had the work/life balance thing licked. However she perpetually carried a lurking suspicion that the next role/ project was going to be the one that caught her out and she would be revealed for the 'imposter' she really thought she was. In her case mercifully this wasn’t debilitating - perhaps it was just her way of not getting complacent - but for others I’ve met and worked with this sort of lingering self-doubt can be crippling.

Nathaniel Brandon said that ‘self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with our self’,
 and that reputation can be surprisingly tough to shift even if it is a reputation that no longer serves us or has little basis in fact. Coaching is often about a fundamental reappraisal - a stock taking if you like - which leads to a more balanced and realistic sense of self. 


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Small goals for big change in 2012

I'm really interested in our relationship with goal setting - while having goals is universally deemed a 'good thing' we seem to spend much of our time either ignoring them or worse, self-sabotaging. This is the time of year for New Year's resolutions but how many of us will still be on the diet in February or getting value from the gym in March? So what is it about setting ourselves a goal that then sets up a parallel mechanism to subvert it ?

Robert Maurer, author of 'One Small Step Can Change Your Life', reckons that it is something to do with the size of our aspirations - ambitious goals, particularly the big hairy audacious sort, he claims, actually sets up resistance in ourselves, channelling our energy into fighting success rather than achieving it. He recommends persistent small goals and small steps as the way to get traction on the changes we want to make in life and work. A sort of 'Kaizen' approach to life coaching?

So I'm not setting any resolutions for 2012 but I am going to loose 1lb in the next week.. and the week after.

Happy New Year!