|Caty Everett, vice president of Alliance Leadership, explains how to maintain your credibility and executive presence during turbulent times.|
|Change is a necessary part of business and that can cause stress among employees. Caty Everett, vice president at Alliance Leadership, explains how being transparent and engaging team members in the process can reduce anxiety|
|Those first few days on a new job can be stressful. Roberta “Bobbie” LaPorte, a career and leadership coach, discusses how to make a great first impression and hit the ground running|
Author: Ray Williams, Psychology Today
Coaching is the second-fastest growing profession in the world, rivaled only by information technology, as I reported in a National Post article. The profession owes its success both to the personal development movement and the huge global economic restructuring since the 1980s. Competition within and among companies, flattened management structures, shrinking talent pools and ineffective leadership have all contributed to the demand for executive coaching.
Executive coaching is an outgrowth of leadership development programs. An article in The Economist concluded executive coaching had become a significant human resource strategy. Recently, the Harvard Business Review noted executive and business coaching is worth US$1-billion a year.
Coaching pre-dates Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Tom Peters and Ken Blanchard. It is rooted in a range of philosophies and practices that can be traced back to Aristotle, Buddhist thought, Gestalt theory and various management and business gurus. It reappeared in the late l950s, but did not receive much attention until the early 1990s. Although coaching gained widespread acceptance by organizations in the 1990s, it has only flourished in recent years.
When executives and professionals, with predominantly analytical training, look at coaching from an investment perspective, they often want theory-based, evidential criteria. Behavior-based coaching, as practiced and advocated by programs such as Dr. Skiffington’s 1to1 Coaching, have focused on behavior change as the basis for effective coaching.
Brain science research in the past decade has significant implications for coaching practices. David Rock, author of Quiet Leadership, and Jeffrey Schwartz, author of The Mind and the Brain, addressed the issue of brain research and coaching in an article in The Journal of Coaching in Organizations. They argue that a brain-based approach to coaching may provide more legitimacy to the coaching profession, which would require coaches to have deeper understanding of brain functions and behavior.
The focus of coaching is often individual change and transformation, including dealing with fear, motivation, successful performance, relationships and a myriad other behavioral and attitudinal issues. Brain science research in recent years has provided key findings that should inform coaches regarding the focus of coaching and their methodologies. So too, are the implications for coaches in organizations, such as executive coaches, who work with leaders.
Rock and Schwartz argue that getting people to change is important, because life–both individual and organizational life–is rapidly changing in our world. The traditional view of change management has focused on two levels. The first, at the individual level has traditional focused changing people by providing critical feedback and judgment, or through the work of professional help, on analyzing peoples’ problems. The second, at the organizational level, has focused on introducing leader-led organizational change initiatives, which assumes by their nature, are expected to create employee buy-in’ or alternatively, focuses on increasing employee motivation and productivity through the traditional “carrot-and-stick” approach, with particular emphasis on financial rewards. The evidence is clear that those approaches have failed to produce meaningful and productive changes.
Brain science research, Rock and Schwartz argue, tells us a lot about why change is difficult and what approaches can work best.
Schwartz argues that our brains are built to detect changes in our environment and are more sensitive to negative change. Any change that constitutes a threat can trigger fear causing the brain’s amygdala to stimulate a defensive emotional or impulsive response. Altering our reactions to change is very difficult for the brain, even though logically we may want to. Rock cites a study of 800 HR professionals in which 44% of them preferred to not follow new directions from the boss and 15% were actively obstructionist. The lesson for coaches and leaders here is the harder you push people to change, the harder they will push back. That’s the way our brains work.
So, how can coaching work effectively with the brain? First, brain research reveals that focusing on problems or negative behavior just reinforces those problems and behaviors. Therefore, the best coaching strategies focus on the present and future solutions. This requires the development of new neural pathways in the brain and new thinking patterns.
Schwartz has identified five main areas of brain research than can inform coaches:
Because the brain operates in a quantum environment, our perceptions and self-talk alters the connections and pathways in our brains. Whatever we focus our “attention” on changes or creates new brain connections;
The connections in our brains form mental “maps” or reality. Whatever we expect to experience, is what we actually experience.
Focusing our attention on solutions or new thinking is a better strategy than focusing on analyzing existing problems because the latter will only reinforce the problems;
If leaders want to more effective coaches themselves, they need to learn to stop giving advice to people, or if it is given, to be unattached to their ideas and present them as options to people. The implications for coaches is obvious, and most coaches are adept at having the clients take responsibility for their own journey or choices;
Coaches need to be adept at reading peoples’ body language, particularly when they have “insights” about their behavior. These insights are visually accompanied by changes in facial expressions. Schwartz has developed a four-part model of facial expressions that indicate emotional states from awareness to illumination. Leaders too need to be sensitive to facial changes as an indication of employees’ mental state.
Coaching has evolved into a much more sophisticated profession based on knowledge from any other disciplines. Now brain science research has the potential for having the greatest impact on coaching individuals and leaders in organizations.
Williams, Ray B.. “How brain science can change coaching | Psychology Today.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 1 Mar. 2010. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201002/how-brain-science-can-change-coaching>
|A new campaign called Embrace Life is tackling an old-age issue in a very different way.|
|Last week, an author called Barbara Ehrenreich spoke at the Royal Society of Arts, an organisation that I chair, about her latest book, Smile or Die: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America .
I profoundly disagree with her theory. As Michael Skapinker wrote in the FT yesterday , optimism built America, and without it the country will never recapture its glory. Aldous Huxley said about the place: “The thing that most impresses me about this country is its hopefulness.”
Yet there appears to be a disturbing and broader case of doubt in the US. In December, Time magazine carried a front cover with the headline: “The Decade From Hell”. And meanwhile, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that the past 10 years had been “The Big Zero”, because average wages, stock and houses prices in the US had stagnated.
Even the American far right has doom-mongers. I appeared on the Glenn Beck show on Fox News last year. I found it difficult to take his apocalyptic views seriously, yet he has a huge following. Everywhere it seems there is a feeling of pessimism that recalls the dark period in the 1970s following the Vietnam war.
I’m afraid the US remains mesmerized by the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, even nine years later. The recent overreaction to a bomb on an aircraft on Christmas day is proof of an inability to put such threats into perspective. The Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are part of this disastrous pattern. Those ill-advised wars have fed the sense of gloom.
Meanwhile, arch-defeatists such as Al Gore have created a vast “global warming” propaganda machine to frighten us all into submission about climate and energy. And the financial crisis, with its after-effects of unemployment, bankruptcies and debt, appears to have compounded the national feeling of misery – or at least that’s how it appears to a foreigner who has always been an unremitting admirer of the US.
The west needs a confident America – indeed, capitalism demands an America that is bullish about the 21st century. More than anywhere ever, industrial inventions and technological advances originated there. The US needs to recapture its hope and vision, its enthusiasm and vigour.
It should not look to Europe for examples. The Old World has a tendency to be cynical. The loss of empires, the end of deference, the rest of the world catching up, an inevitable diminution of economic and political might – these trends have inclined too many Europeans to fear the worst and be nervous about the future. This attitude to life is not good for the soul, and it makes progress seem like a concept from the past.
Because progress is precisely what the US – and even Britain – has been making in the past 10, 20 or 50 years. Be it in health, real standards of living – you name it – in more or less every aspect of work or leisure, there has been improvement in a pretty relentless fashion, thanks to free enterprise, science and democracy.
Unfortunately, many of these advances are incremental and do not create headlines. I suspect that the media and politicians believe they get more mileage from worrying us. And plenty of left-of-centre academics and commentators prefer the spectre of decline and fall to the idea of rising prosperity. It gives them something to complain about, in their masochistic, gloating way.
So, for example, California, which has always been at the cutting edge, needs to get a grip, shrug off the blues, ignore the depressives – and help lead the recovery. Despondency cures nothing. America has space, it has ingenuity, it has freedom, it has scale. By most measures it remains the best place on earth to start a business. A spirit of adventure, of limitless possibilities, of manifest destiny, lies at the heart of the American psyche. The rise of China must not dim the American zest for growth. And in spite of Barack Obama’s “audacity of hope”, I do not believe big government is the cure.
How would intellectuals such as Ehrenreich have us behave? Life provides its share of cruel and inescapable truths, but despair or denial are surely not the answer. Give me a belief in the power of opportunity any time.
Johnson, Luke. “Why We Need an Optimistic America.” Financial Times 20 Jan. 2010, sec. Business Life: 10. Print.
|Years ago, before I had my own video cassette recorder, let alone DVD player, the Financial Times used to have a cinema in the basement. If you had a video, you would go down, hand it to a projectionist who seemed to have been there since talkies began and snuggle down to watch.
I once took down a video by the management guru Tom Peters. In the film, Mr Peters regaled his audience with tales of companies that had innovated, delighted customers and reinvented themselves. Voice rising, face glistening, he exhorted his audience to do it too, rousing them to a whooping, hands-aloft ovation.
Our projectionist extracted the video from the machine and handed it back to me. “Goes on a bit, doesn’t he?” he said. I relayed the remark to my colleagues. “Makes you proud to be British,” one said.
It is easy to laugh, but hasn’t America’s unembarrassed enthusiasm been responsible for its business dominance? Aren’t Microsoft, Apple and Google the result of people stilling all doubts to turn their ideas into world-leading companies? As Robert Reich, former US labour secretary, observed: “American optimism carries over into our economy, which is one reason why we’ve always been a nation of inventors and tinkerers, of innovators and experimenters.”
That sunniness has to be good for business, doesn’t it? No, says Barbara Ehrenreich, the US writer, in her book Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World.
Ms Ehrenreich has plenty to say about business, but what exhausted her patience with positive thinking was breast cancer. As she researched her options after her diagnosis, she was startled by how cheery everyone was. The treatment might be disfiguring and literally nauseating, but there were upsides. “In the lore of the disease – shared with me by oncology nurses as well as by survivors – chemotherapy smoothes and tightens the skin and helps you lose weight, and, when your hair comes back it will be fuller, softer.”
Besides, there were medical reasons to stay cheerful: it raised your chance of staying alive. In one study, 60 per cent of survivors attributed their recovery to a positive attitude. Ms Ehrenreich, a PhD in cell biology, evaluated this claim and found it bogus. A study which concluded that patients in support groups lived longer could not be replicated. Your attitude made no difference.
This fluent, furious section is the book’s best. Switching to the allegedly dolorous effect of positive thinking on business, Ms Ehrenreich is less convincing. She reminds us that business has not always been linked to optimism. Max Weber traced capitalism’s roots to Protestantism, which required hard work and deferred gratification.
That changed with the rise of service businesses, which demanded constant growth in customer desires and employees who could meet them. Hence the need for the ever-present smile, the positive attitude and the corporate dislike of moaning. Ms Ehrenreich recounts the rise of the motivational speaker, the team-building exercises and the dismissal of staff for showing insufficient enthusiasm.
This positive thinking contained the seeds of meltdown. The Robert Reich quote above has a second part: “Optimism also explains why we save so little and spend so much.” America’s financial wizards believed that, however much people borrowed, the market would take care of itself. “What was market fundamentalism other than runaway positive thinking?” Ms Ehrenreich asks.
Well, you can be a positive thinker without it. The recent speech by Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric’s chief executive, about how government money could help lead America to a clean-energy future, was a rejection of market fundamentalism, but it still contained homilies about the US being a “country where no one’s dreams are too big”.
Ms Ehrenreich advocates a “vigilant realism”, one that analyses dangers, rather than dismissing them as unimportant “compared with one’s internal state or attitude or mood”. With the US financial system and much of its car industry surviving thanks to taxpayer largesse, who can argue with that? As she says, companies could have done with “the financial officer who keeps worrying about the bank’s subprime mortgage exposure or the auto executive who questions the company’s overinvestment in SUVs and trucks”.
But who does it better? For all of China’s power, it still does not have a single world-class innovative company.
Yes, there are lessons to learn about evaluating risk. But you can be paralysed by risk too. Any innovation is a leap of faith, a belief that the risk is worth running. Americans have been good at that. I wouldn’t count them out yet, or their positive thinking.
Skapinker, Michael. “Positive Thinking is Still Key to Prosperity.” Ft.com. Financial Times, 18 Jan. 2010. Web. 18 Jan. 2010. <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d9deafc4-0461-11df-8603-00144feabdc0.html>.
Christopher Szecsey (pronounced “say-chay”) has over 38 years of worldwide experience across more than 48 countries in capacity-building of individuals, teams, community groups, organizations, & projects. For the past 15 years, he has worked as consultant, trainer, & facilitator with international nonprofits & local nonprofits (NGOs) as well as with government & multilateral agencies in the USA & around the world.
His international clients include: the Center for Disease Control in Ethiopia, Carter Center, World Wildlife Fund, American Red Cross, Save the Children, CARE, PACT, PATH, Family Health International, Pathfinder, Counterpart International, The Asia Foundation, FAO/UN, UNDP, & UNICEF as well as international consulting firms, foundations, & government agencies. Prior to consulting, he served nine years as a Country Representative/Field Office Director for Save the Children/US on three international assignments in Asia & the Pacific Islands; two years as a Project Director for UNDP in Nepal; & three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador.
His USA clients, mostly in the Northern California, include: the Volunteer Center & its Nonprofit Resource Center, Community Action Partnerships, West County Community Services, Santa Rosa Symphony, Habitat for Humanity, RECOURSE, Restorative Resources, Sonoma County Repertory Theater, Next Generation, Lifeschool, Osmosis, Southwest Community Health Center, La Luz, foundations such as Levi Strauss & West County Healthcare, school districts, & local city & county government agencies.
Key areas of Christopher’s consulting experience include building the capacity of the nonprofit sector around the world including in the USA; providing technical assistance, training & facilitation in collaboration/partnerships; organizational assessment & development, leadership & team strengthening; program assessment, design, planning, & management; & board & staff development as well as work with local government agencies.
Christopher has significant experience & skills in training & facilitation with boards, senior staff, & diverse stakeholder groups, using learner center participatory, interactive, & collaborative learning processes to ensure client & stakeholder involvement, engagement & ownership for positive change efforts.
He has served on the board of three nonprofits as well as the chair of one, and as a nonprofit executive director. He graduated from the University of the Pacific/Callison College, and successfully completed the Executive Certificate Program in Global Change & Social Innovation/Appreciative Inquiry, Global Excellence in Management (GEM) Initiative, Case Western Reserve University. His three languages are: English, Spanish, and Indonesian.
Dr. Jeanie Cockell, is president of a consulting company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Jeanie is a dynamic facilitator who is known for her creativity, sense of humour, sensitivity, and ability to get diverse groups to work collaboratively together. She is a leader in Appreciative Inquiry as an organizational and community development process, a research methodology and foundation for fostering collaboration in groups. Jeanie has been certified by Company of Experts.net as both an Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator and an appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) Trainer.
Since 1999 Jeanie has worked as an educational and organizational consultant with organizations in the private, public and social-profit sectors. She has extensive experience in facilitating, presenting, training, coaching, conflict resolution, leading and collaboratively designing strategies for individuals, groups, organizations and communities to build positive futures and to respond effectively to change.
Her background includes teaching, presenting and delivering workshops in a variety of areas: appreciative inquiry; team building; leadership; diversity; mathematics; adult learning; instructional skills, planning and design; instructor and program evaluation; and facilitator training. As well Jeanie has had formal leadership roles at Vancouver Community College as Mathematics Department Head, Associate Dean; at the Institute of Indigenous Government where she consulted as Dean in the senior executive team; and at the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education as Project Officer leading a large provincial project.
Her consulting work is based on the expertise that she developed and continues to enhance as an educator and leader, as well as the theoretical/research background she developed in doing her Masters research on “Power and Leadership: A Perspective from College Women” (1993) and her Doctoral research on “Making Magic: Facilitating Collaborative Processes (2005).
Jeanie has a BA in Mathematics, an MA in Higher Education and an EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy all from the University of British Columbia. She is also an Instructional Skills Facilitator Trainer, Gender and Diversity Facilitator Trainer, Sociocultural Competency Trainer, and Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Trainer.
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