Friday, June 22, 2012

Beware of “Life Skill Coaches”

After completion of graduation, during summers, I decided to do the job. The company was well reputed in health care and my job was in marketing. The owner of the company was in the process to sell the company and the discussions were in progress. However he was self declared trainer, facilitator, motivator etc etc. On the day of joining, we all were asked to seat in classroom and Mr. Owner was supposed to take our class. And he took the class for one week on “Life Skills”. The workshop was good, but Mr. Owner was difficult trainer. The workshop was with lot of sharing of personal stories and at the end of the story he was challenging us on our though process. It was good but was at very philosophical level. The workshop was from 9 to 9, without bio-breaks and sometimes he was abusive and we were totally lost. Only 10 people out of 35 could complete the course. Rest left in between. I was among 10; however I left the job after 2 months to study further. After that I never met that trainer, but later understood that he sold the company and received beautiful amount.  He divorced his wife and remarried with girlfriend. I surprise with his “life skills.”

There is famous psychologist who counsels on psychological health. This includes family relations, parenting skills etc etc. The person who is much involved in psychological health in families could not improve his relations with his family. His wife ran away with his assistant. He is still taking the care of psychological health of society.

I had one report in my earlier company. He was doing well initially. He decided to attend the workshop on “Life Skills” conducted by one so called “Life Skills Coach”. He attended this workshop on his own thinking to develop himself. It was three months extensive programme on Sundays. I thought, oh good, I will get totally transformed person.  Yes, I got totally transformed person which I had not expected. There was something wrong with either Life Skills Coach or this fellow. He could not give the proper results. Sometimes he was aggressive, sometimes very mild. He would accept the excuses given by cross functional members. I saw him totally confused. He was actually practicing, empathy, assertiveness, humbleness, but with wrong juncture. Later on I understood that he started to face the issues with his family. Perhaps he was latterly started to act word to word.

I am strong believer of coaching. Life skills coaches are also good with specific circumstances. However person is developed on his strength. If you build on strength and take step by step action, you would get the results. Weaknesses and development areas also need to focus, but if you don’t have anything to build on that I have doubt on the results. Development areas should be definitely taken care off, but first building on strength will give you more results.

Where does “life skills of coaches” go when they can’t handle their family members? And what is the use of that “Life Skill Coach” who can not transfer the knowledge or life skills properly?

(Opinions expressed here are about specific coaches or with their styles. These are not generalized opinions.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Style as per the situation: Situational Leadership

Once you identified the style of learning or performing of your tem members, the real challenge is to tune your (leadership) style with their style.

Sometime you may decide just to instruct and direct the person, however sometimes you may be supportive. You guide him; support him so that he would take the right decision. Key factors are how you are directive or how you are supportive in your leadership style. Most of the times, manager use the same style with all employees and they fail to motivate all.

Directive style (low support and high direction):
As mentioned in the table, you may use the directive style if the person has low competence and high commitment.  Showing and telling the person what to do, how to do it and when they need to be finished by. The leader provides as many explanations as are needed, but there is no discussion/debate on what must be done. Problem-solving and decision-making are initiated by the leader. The team member needs this type of direction to get them started.

Coaching Style (high direction and high support):
This can be used for the person who has some or low competence and low commitment. This person needs motivation.  The leader gives a high degree of direction and is still the centre of the universe for the team, and the individual. He leads with his own ideas, however he is also explaining why things need to be done the way requested and seeking much more input from the team members. Two-way communication and support is increased, but control over decision-making remains with the leader.

He can do it by selling an idea, testing or consulting the idea.

Joining Style (for reluctant contributor):
This style is useful when the person has the competence and he doesn’t need direction, but needs support and motivation.  The focus of day-to-day decision-making and problem solving shifts from the leader to the team member. The leader is operating more as a resource and facilitator.
At this time the leader and the team member discuss and jointly decide.

Delegating (for perk performer: - high competence and high motivation):
Here person has competence and enough motivated to perform the task. Such types of people are high performers in the organization. These employees need new challenges, freedom to work and want involve in decision making process.

Here all tasks are handled with little input from the leader. The team member directs their own behavior and decides how tasks should be accomplished and how often to involve the leader. The team member is willing – even wants – to work by him or herself with little support or supervision. The leader is focused on strategic issues and works with the team to rapidly implement changes that enable the team to remain competitive in the marketplace.

Once you have chosen the appropriate style to use with this person, in this situation, you then monitor performance. Making decisions to shift your style as the person either grows beyond the style you had chosen, or lacks suitable progress and requires you to maybe step back a level.

You can use the following tool to assess and willingness of your team and decide your leadership style.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Level and style… Does it matter?

Development level of your team and your leadership style…
We always say that every child is different and unique, but when the same child grows we don’t believe on this, at least in the organization. Every employee is different and unique. They have different personalities, styles, their IQ, EQ, SQ levels. I came from the joint family; you learn most of the man- management and interpersonal aspects in the joint family. If you are not from joint family, it is decided by the community, society and school colleagues. Your active participation in these groups helps you to understand the human dimension better.  That is the reason; why we should allow and even ask our children to spend more time with their friends, sports and certain community activities.

When it comes, in the organization, this experience helps you to work in a team or manage a team.  You will be more effective, successfully bring out the best in others and get the best results when you have the ability to flex your style to suit the particular situation.

And when I say the style to suit the particular situation, I am very much convinced with the situational leadership model developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the late 1960s.

Let’s make it simple. If you are a team as a member or as a team leader or a leader, you may have to understand the different styles of people first.

Take an example of 4 children a class,

1.       The child who is learner, he has high commitment and always ahead with studies and homework. However he needs more inputs. They need tuitions.  
2.       The child who does not like studies, he has low commitment and always behind. He is backbencher and very slowly come forward. Teacher need to take more initiatives to get work from this child. 
3.       The child who is far ahead as compared with other children. He is fast, he knows everything, and he has high IQ. Very high competence, but his interests vary. He will learn computer game and all of sudden will go for watching cartoon, sometimes read books and sometimes search on Google. But his interest level can be determined easily. Parents like such children and even they force these children to different classes, academics, swimming, dancing, singing, tennis etc etc.     
4.       The child who is very good and excellent in all facets and has high commitments. He is similar to the child in point 3, but with high commitment.

What does this mean? Let’s put them in structured box and title them…

First child has low competence but high commitment: The “Enthusiastic Beginner”

Employee may be new in the organization and team. He is excited about the job; however he is not aware about “how” part. He does not have the kills required to perform the job.

Second child has low competence and low commitment: The “Disillusioned Learner”

Employee may have been around for a while and may have some relevant skills. Motivation and enthusiasm have dropped. Inconsistent in their performance and unsure of the difference they make.

Third child has really high competence, but variable commitment. Commitment is depend upon his interest level. : The “Reluctant Contributor”

Employee has probably been around for a while and is quite experienced and capable. At times though, lacks the confidence to do things alone and/or the motivation to do it well. He might be bored and looking for new challenges.

Fourth child is ideal kid! He has high competence and high commitment: The “Perk Performer”

Employee enjoys what he is doing, is highly competent and probably even teaching others skills.

Now I hope that you must have understood the child (employee) and his style.  


If you put above philosophy, it will look as under:


Once you put your team members and employees in above grid, you will be able to design the matching style with each person.  The main challenge is how to do that.

Let’s see this in next week…..

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Coaching is like parenting and asking to eat bitter-gourd

Most of the times, managers refer performance cases to their bosses and HR.  Imagine the situation where issue is put on the table of HR head. Employee says, “I am not aware, nobody told me that I am doing anything wrong.” Line manager says,” I have given you the hint when we discussed last time.” HR head says, “Have you documented the discussion?”
The result- Communication is not clear, expectations are not clear. Employee says, “Sir you never told me that.” Boss says, “We meet everyday, but you never discuss with me.”
Why such situations arise?
It is good to keep HR in loop, but then managers forget responsibilities towards their employees. Sometimes, employee may have performance or behaviour issues. Handling non performing employees is always a difficult task. If employee is old in the organization, then such issues may create lot of confusion among interested parties. If these issues are not handled properly, they become, perpetual.  The perpetual issues affect the productivity. It also disturbs the culture. Here HR has the prime responsibility to develop managers as effective coach. Coaching is the key. One of the HR responsibilities of line managers is to focus on the performance of employees and be the coach for their employees.
Coaching is a mean for learning and development. It also includes manager’s role of guiding to achieve goals and experience sharing. However most of the times, it is misinterpreted for correcting behaviour, directing somebody or forcing the expertise. Coaching asks what is right as well as what works. It is ongoing procedure. As rightly said by Galileo Galilei, you can’t teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself. Coaching is exactly supporting employees to discover their potential within themselves.

Here manager’s act as a good model. His direct reports may be mimicking his behavior. Sometime managers are directive and sometimes supportive. This should also need to reflect in coaching style.  

Employee needs coaching in following circumstances.
  • If he has performance issues
  • If he has behaviour issues
  • If he is being bored with routine job
  • If causing frictions with team members
  • If he is stumbling while working.      
Every person in his life plays the role of coach; coach for his kids. In profession, though you can’t treat your employees as kid, but you can pick your style to develop them, guide them to develop their performance.

What do we do at home when we don’t get desired behaviour or results from the kid? My wife uses a unique technique of coaching.

In past my son, Atharva had an issue of eating sabjee of bitter -gourd. She tried to understand the reason by listening well. Initially the response was “I don’t like that”. Then after continues questioning, he told his problem that the subzi tastes bitter and hence he doesn’t like that. After few days she advocate eating bitter-guard explaining him certain reasons, like it is good for heath etc etc. She also made some changes in the recipe so that it would taste less bitter. Child started to taste and gave good feedback. Finally he agreed that he would eat the same. She did not forget to reward him for this improvement.     

What skills she used here?

  • She listened actively,
  • She asked right questions and reasons,
  • She advocated her opinion,
  • She received feedback and gave her feedback,
  • She built agreement
  • She rewarded kid.
If you want to be effective coach, you required to develop above skills. These are right skills required for coaching. We all have these skills, only need to uncover the same.

Now just see the methodology she adopted.

She identified area: Areas is to guide the child to eat subzi of bitter-gourd.
Identify desired outcome: Child eats subzi without hesitation is the expected outcome.
Take stakeholders in confidence: She took the child and me (!) in confidence by convincing him that it is good for health.
Identify difficulties: She identified difficulties and change the recipe if required.

In whole process, here her role was supportive. Here directive coaching style would have been failed. We should be very clear about the circumstances about using these styles. If employee is totally inexperienced and need coaching, directive style would help.

Coaching has purpose and objective. It is not just directing or guiding. Here results are expected. I personally believe that if we work as coaches than managers, we can easily expect more results from our employees. Literally it is like parenting. Parenting what my wife did, call it as coaching as well!  

And off course, it is same like asking employee to eat bitter-gourd.

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