Research: What CEOs Really Want from Coaching

This is interesting in the areas it describes for development


6, 9 or something else?




Many years ago, this simple metaphor in the diagram provided a very useful way of thinking about relationships and influencing others.

The premise being that in order to influence someone to see a “9” you needed to understand why the other person saw it as a “6”. Ultimately, the skill was to convince the person that you understood why they saw it as 6, and that made you more influential to present why your 9 was better.

The metaphor served me well especially in roles where I was required to get people to a pre determined answer, as I found was often the case as part of either a change or process improvement activity. On reflection, whilst being useful it probably belonged more to a form of negotiation rather than collaboration, and might even border on manipulation, sorry persuasion!

Just recently I have been doing a fair bit of thinking about my interests and direction I would like to head in 2014, and a flurry of thoughts have been whirling around in my head, that include collaboration, conflict and innovation. All of these whirling around a solid mass which is the personality stuff that I draw on so much in my practice.

I had a couple of nudges recently. One was noticing some of the language been used by participants involved in a series of development centres, and came out during a meeting conducted between successive participants and a professional role player around a peer to peer relationship. The role player having a set of expressive behaviours that most of the participants find quite challenging. Anyway, in the de-brief, I have had a number of participants describe their success in the meeting as “achieving a compromise”!!

This language intrigued me and I wondered why they would see this as success. To my mind, compromise is that both parties have only achieved at best half of what they set out to achieve and therefore both will be dissatisfied with the result. When I questioned their use of the word, they described a state similar to my definition, and interestingly were not actually able to describe a higher form, where they were able to hold onto their own agenda and seek to really find out what the other person wanted from the meeting, and their longer term goals.

So back to my 6 or 9 metaphor, they went into the meeting trying to get a 9, realised they were not going to get it so settled for 7.5!!! Better than losing altogether, but not satisfactory to either parties. I am also wondering why they saw it as a negotiation!!

The other nudge has been around a series of conversations with clients and my wife (in regard to her job) where it has become clear to me that key to process or organisational success for many, there needs to a real clarity about expectations between different people, teams, departments and businesses.Without this clarity, then both parties are dissatisfied. Using the 6 or 9 metaphor, both parties are making assumptions about the other and even if there are different objectives, that one seeks a 6 whilst the other a 9, these are not being “explicitly” talked about, and therefore once again fall into a compromise state, feeling easier to accept somewhere between the two. Either because its easier not to confront it, or maybe just a lack of recognition of the issue.

So something else? Well recently I have been drawn to the notion of dialogue, and that dialogue is more than listening to others, but also stating opinions confidently. I work with a set of high performance leadership behaviours that are about understanding the thoughts and feelings of others, facilitating interaction, and being confident about asserting a clear point of view. Those familiar with dialogue might describe these as inquiry and advocacy.

I talked to @fuchia_blue on Skype. I found that her real name was Julie Drybrough, I bounced my thoughts around with her, got loads of nods and smiles so I took that as I must be on the right lines, and since bought a book she recommended which is my holiday reading over Christmas.

Interestingly the book is called Dialogue by William Isaacs, and its starting to channel my thoughts and get me closer to my interest.

Its early days for me yet, but already the book has thrown out some interesting thoughts that intrigue me:

  • “dialogue is a living experience of inquiry within and between people”
  • “the most important parts of any conversation are those that neither party could have imagined before starting”
  • “dialogue is not in the end merely about talking, it is about action”
  • “too many of us have lost touch with the fire of conversation. When we talk together, it is rarely with depth. For the most part, we see our conversations as either opportunities to trade information or arena’s in which to win points. Difficulties that might otherwise be resolved or even dissolved persist. And we often find we do not simply have the wherewithal to genuinely consider new possibilities, new options”

Its the last sentence that excites me, new possibilities and options. I am passionate about making work better, easier, faster, cheaper as you might expect with production engineering in my blood. I am therefore fascinated to explore dialogue as a way of doing this rather than just applying a set of models, frameworks and methodologies which seek to get people to a 6 or a 9.

Maybe, just maybe there is something else….

So as we head into 2014, and full of possibilities, maybe an answer that we might not have imagined?


13 is a luckier number


2013 comes to a close and its been a much better year for me in many ways .

2012 really was not a great one. I put my Mum in a home, and my Dad sensing his work was done went quietly, bless him!! But it was also a rubbish year work wise. There was just not enough of it, I took my eye off the ball and my wife’s contract came to an end as we decided a move to London did not suit us.

But work did start to pick up again in the final stages of 2012 and I entered 2013 in a much more positive mood.

It has been better, I have done some good and some great work, got some great feedback and most importantly having some great conversations with new and prospective clients and the small number of consultancies that I work on an associate basis with.

Most importantly, I have started smiling again and I am shouting at the boys less.

So here’s to 2014. The pipeline is filling up, and whilst there is always space for more I am really excited about the New Year. But first its Christmas, New Year and skiing to be done.

Look forward to catching up in 2014.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I wish you and all your loved ones fun and joy!


Crisis in Leadership?


This is a recycled blog from earlier in the year. It got good reviews and as I have moved to WordPress I thought it was appropriate to re-publish it, as well as a chance to add a drawing 🙂

HR Magazine published this article in April.

UK Employees demotivated due to “leadership crisis”.

It referred to a study by Hay Management Consultants, and the headlines that struck me were that only 18% of leaders in the UK are able to create a high performance environment for their employees, and that 50% are creating a demotivating working climate.

The article also mentioned that its generally recognised that effective leadership comes from adopting a range of styles, and that 38% have not mastered or at best only one leadership style. This compares with 2% who are able to adopt a range of four or more styles.

I thought it might be helpful to expand on the article as I am accredited to use a 360 feedback tool based on the leadership styles Hay Group refer to in the article.

The Inventory of Leadership Styles comes from Daniel Goleman of Emotional Intelligence fame and referenced in his book The New Leaders (Primal Leadership outside of the UK). His research indicated that leaders who achieved the best results did not just practice one style of leadership, but used as many as six different styles, demanded by the situation and context of the issues they faced.

Goleman uses the analogy of imagining the leadership styles as a set of clubs in a pro golfers bag. Over the course of a round, the pro chooses and picks a club from his bag based on the demands of the shot and his own state during a tournament. Sometimes he may ponder selection, but usually its automatic. The pro senses the challenge and swiftly pulls out the right club and plays the shot.

Goleman’s six styles of leadership seeks to add a way of understanding a mixture of styles that we all probably recognise, but not in one collection, and he sought to bring some science to what is often thought of as an art form!

He identifies the six styles as:

Coercive: gaining immediate compliance

Visionary: providing long term vision and leadership

Affiliative: creating trust and harmony

Democratic: reaching group consensus and generating new ideas

Pacesetting: leading by example and accomplishing task to high standards

Coaching: focusing on the professional growth of employees

Of the six styles, four have the potential to improve team and organisational performance. These are Visionary, Affiliative, Democratic and Coaching. The Coercive and Pacesetting styles have the potential to demotivate and create negative reactions in others if over used or used in effectively.

When I use these styles in either a coaching conversation or as part of a Leadership Development programme. Most people will honestly recognise those styles they are drawn toward, that they feel comfortable with. In golfing terms the “trusty 7 iron”, the club that feels comfortable and easy to use.

Just this awareness and understanding the potential impact of over using or even under using certain styles of leadership can bring a greater level of self awareness and often a recognition that styles used in the past may not guarantee success in the future.

I am not sure we have a crisis in leadership, maybe just a lack of awareness of what leadership is and is not. My personal view is that we have over relied on a set of characteristics and stories peddled by the “great man” myth, and that this model like others based more around a sound construct of behaviours might give us a meaningful framework on which to talk leadership.

There is a 360 available that can provide leaders with a profile of their repertoire of styles. Its also normed against tens of thousands of managers around the world, and across industries, job functions and levels in both the public and private sectors.

If you are curious and would like to know more, or you would just like to talk leadership then give me a shout. I would love to hear from you.

The Icarus Paradox


Greek mythology was not really a subject that fired much imagination and curiosity at a Wolverhampton comprehensive, but the story of Icarus was clearly planted somewhere in my mind. It was Icarus who failed to heed his fathers advice and flew too close to the sun. Whereupon the wax holding his wings together melted, and as a result he plunged to his death.

I was reminded of the story of Icarus in the early 90‘s whilst studying for my MBA, and an influential book for me then was The Icarus Paradox by Danny Miller who described a framework for describing the dynamics of success, decline and renewal of companies at a time when all the academics seemed to want to knock the evangelical teachings of Peters and Waterman and their apparent formulas for success!

Icarus came back into view for me recently when I read an article about the need for people to have a coach if only to receive feedback that others were too scared to give them. Bit of a shame really if thats the main reason for having a coach!

The story of Icarus does provide us with a useful metaphor for us all as we come to the end of 2013 and embark on 2014.

What advice do we choose to ignore, how open are we to seeking and receiving feedback, and what do you want to do about it?

What might be the perils of that thinking as we go into the new year?

Don’t feed the monkeys, and managing expectations..


I had to remind my wife the other evening that she was falling into her usual trap of taking on other people’s monkeys for them.   She is one of those people who is highly conscientious’, loyal and hardworking. She is proud of the fact that she has never missed a deadline, and she normally meets the extremely high expectations she sets herself.

The cost? She works harder and longer to meet those high standards!!

I imagine that many of us are aware of the classic Covey time management principles of urgency and importance, and that one of the keys to effective productivity and personal effectiveness is to work on the tasks and projects that add value to our work and goals, and to say “no” to those people who steal our time. That sounds easy and it was Elton John that sang “sorry seems to be the hardest word”, but for my wife “No” is probably the hardest. From my experience of coaching individuals or delivering time management training, people have a real issue with saying no!

So where do monkeys come in? I came across this metaphor a few years ago from a classic HBR article (Harvard Business Review), with the metaphor being that a manager meets his subordinate in a corridor, and when confronted with an issue says “leave it with me”. The metaphor being that the issue, the subordinates monkey jumps onto the back of the Manager, and therefore the Manager now has the monkey, and the article goes on to talk about how to manage and “feed” the monkeys. Its a useful and memorable framework when talking about delegation, coaching and managing roles and responsibility. Its also been powerful to remind Kathryn when she starts to slide into her “dark side”.

But my wife is not a manager of others, in fact she is an internal service provider, and her issue is not about delegation but having clear and “explicit” expectations with her internal customer. The result being that when that customer is not clear about what they want, and what they actually want to provide for their external customer, the lack of clarity is passed down the internal “supply chain” for my wife to sort out.

So my comment, “you are taking on their Monkeys”, is because she is being asked to meet a deadline, however she is not given all the information and intentions behind the service that is being proposed. The lack of clarity meaning she has to work really hard to fill those gaps. She has tried to correct this through a more formalised process with clear requests for information in a template format, but this is not always supplied or of the standards required by Kathryn for her to meet what is required by the Company.

So my reminder to her was that in the short term she had to say “No”. There was no way she could meet the deadlines set out by the internal customer unless she was provided with the quantity and quality of information and data that she needs to provide her service. So the “No” would be pointing out that the deadline would not be met unless her customer met their commitments as part of their internal contract.

I am reminded of one of my memorable experiences when I was a member of a factory management team. As the Engineering Director I was responsible for keeping the production plant running and the factory fabric in good order and compliant with the regulatory requirements of a pharmaceutical facility. We had a facilitator run a team event for us as we were not working effectively together and one of the exercises he got us to do was:

“what I and my team will deliver”

“what I and my team have no intention of delivering”

The statement left a real impression on me, and actually got me a 30% increase in my team size. Up until that day, there were all sorts of requests made on me and my team ranging from new signs on the “bog doors” to fundamentally changing the way the air conditioning was configured. In my opinion, Engineering became the easy place to dump issues that other Managers in other departments were not prepared to manage. That simple, but challenging exercise, enabled me to clarify what services and work we could provide with our resources and budget, but most importantly it enabled me to push back on a whole shopping “wish list”. I was able to start saying if you want “x” then I can’t do “y”. Of course if you want “y” and I agree that its the right thing to do, then I will need more money, time or resources, and I will need your help in getting them.

I think its easy to get carried away with the notion that a supplier has to bend over backwards to meet the needs of their customer, but actually as a result of that workshop my team and I improved our service, hit our KPI’s and people started talking about us as “adding value”.

So saying “no” does not have to be negative. The positive is to talk about expectations, whats required, what you can offer, and how best and how fast you can do that. It also needs the courage as the supplier to be clear about what you expect from customers, internal and external, in order to meet their demands.

That requires dialogue. Dialogue is about listening, advocating a point of view, and collaborating together to ensure that both parties are able to meet their objectives and standards. Maybe, not having to work long hours too!!

Maybe thats an issue for you, your teams, or your organisation. If you would like some help with those conversations I would be happy to help if I can.

“I don’t need to wear my medals but…



“I don’t need to wear my medals, but I would like people to recognise how hard I work in training and that I always try to do things properly”

Those were the words my youngest son Luke who is 11 uttered last night whilst we were all crashed in the snug with another swimming gala coming up today. 

By way of context, Luke is a promising swimmer. He has really developed over the past 12 months and he is highly ranked as a county swimmer with potential to swim at Midlands level too. He has recently stepped upto training six days a week at two swimming clubs in order to get the pool time he needs to develop and compete. In total he trains around 9 hours a week covering at least 10000 metres. 

On his return from a gala, any medals he has won quickly find their way to a bedroom shelf, with more interest shown in his times and how he compares on the County rankings. This is different to other swimmers, who quite rightly for them, take their medals along to training sessions and proudly show them off.

Last night Luke talked that it was his choice not to do this, but expressed frustration that he felt that people did not recognise his success and that actually he would like recognition not for his medals but for his work ethic, and how hard he works to perfect his technique. He knows he is good, but its the effort and his ability he wants to be recognised for.

So what have I reflected on today. 

A reminder that whilst some of us might have a need for achievement this might be expressed in many ways. Meeting or beating the target, and/or the public display of those achievements would be the obvious examples. But what struck  me about Luke’s comment was the need for him to be the best he can be at something, he is currently working on improving his times at the moment, but is struggling to let go as he fears his technique might detriorate. Its a real dilemma for him!

I am reminded of Jim Collins “hedgehog principle” and Dan Pinks “mastery”.

I wonder do we always give each other the opportunity to be the best at something, be clear about the steps that it takes, to value mastery, and in the way we recognise people that we place an equal value on the how as much as the what they have achieved. Its easy to see success as very tangible outcomes, but the how you get there is surely equally as important and maybe we need to put more value on that.

I wonder if we did, what we might help others to achieve?