Wednesday, 11 August 2021

A Strong Positive Client Message!

 





I promote my work as a Personal Development Coach on a popular referral site. Prospective clients can take a look at my profile and read some referrals, then decide if we might be a good fit for each other. Pam (not her real name) contacted me; she was concerned about her son, Philip who left university with an in-demand masters’ degree but was finding it difficult to focus on what to do next.


My usual approach is to connect prospective clients to an online strengths survey. Once completed I’m able to use this to discuss how we might use existing strengths to help us navigate our way through some of our challenges.
We also use this as a baseline to consider the strength areas we don’t reach out to, and how we might begin to incorporate them in our behaviours.


Over 5 sessions we have looked at how our strengths can be used to

·         Increase our awareness of our potential by “real time” discussion of where we have used them well.

·         Opened an awareness of what can happen if we overplay/underplay our strengths.

·         Used our strengths to inform how we might handle difficult/challenging situation namely “Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zones”

·         Examined how we perform in conflict/tense situations by referring to a well-established analytical model

·         Considered how we might need to adapt a flexible behavioural approach to dealing with challenge

·         Looked at the role of Emotional Intelligence in achieving great outcomes

·         Developed a powerful, positive personal narrative

Phil as been engaged and open in his appreciation of our work. He has stated that his confidence in a better place and that our programme should be made available to all students leaving Uni! Generous but there are capacity issues!

What do I think has happened? I feel it’s likely that as a coach, I’ve been able to create some thinking space for Phil to explore how he can use his strengths, new understandings and transferable experience to help him access the future he wants.

I’m keen to share my approaches with anyone who would like to increase their confidence, resilience and self-awareness. I can be reached by responding to this piece, DM or by emailing jpd@dy3solutions.mygbiz.com .
It would be great to hear from you!

Monday, 21 June 2021

I Wonder What Happened To...

 I've wrtten before about some of my previous work as a Head Teacher in a Pupil Referral Unit. Here's a story from the mid 1990's: just a date, the narrative continues.



We had a mixed group of troubled young people at our centre and the labels didn't mean very much-labels have a tendency to damn the future rather than to explain the past.

When working with troubled kids, there were a few things we did know and "Thing One" was, don't leave them unsupervised (stuff kicks off very quickly!).
I didn't insist on very much from the staff, having a great team for me meant helping them to do their job and we had a few conventions in place to help. The big one was that everyone's "stock-box" (pens, pencils, rulers....that sort of stuff), was replensished daily and before we started teaching. That meant that if an uncomfortable situation was gathering pace, the class teacher might send one of the kids down to the office for a piece of stock-this was a signal that some help was needed and we would take it from there. 

Monday:

Teaching started at 08:45 and at 08:55 one of the learners from Bev's group came down for some staples. I went up and Bev handed me a note

"Chris is in an awful state today!!"

Chris:(a) witty, charming, funny, open, empathetic, cooperative and biddable.

Chris: (b) abusive, quarrelsome, selfish, destructive and rejecting.


........all of the above and more!


I asked Chris to come with me to the office: I asked him how his week-end had been-

Chris: "Bad, man...bad!"

Me: Have you had any breakfast, sleep...that sort of stuff, Chris?

Chris: Nah, it's been a bad week-end.

Me: Sit down there Chris, I'll sort something out

...and in a few minutes he'd had some tea and toast and a few minutes later he was asleep and stayed asleep until 13:00. When he awakened we had version (a) restored. More tea, more toast-he was on a reduced programme and went home at 13:30 ish.

A Bad Week End

Chris had a chaotic homelife, a co-depedent relationship with his mom whose drug and alcohol abuse were accompanied by a number of fee paying sexual partners, some of them stuck around for a while and most of them didn't. Chris seldom had clean clothes and frequently stank of weed.

Chris: (to me on another occasion) It's like this Sir, she has these blokes round and they start on the rum and she gets off her face on this and weed and I have to look after her, I can't stop it but if I'm awake and around maybe that wont hurt her....it's a fucking mess, Sir. They don't want me around and I've said I'll stab 'em if they don't fuck off....

Agencies had tried their best and we were the first educational setting he'd stayed at for anymore than a couple of weeks. Social services were reluctant to take him into care, given that he would almost certainly abscond and there were real concerns about the impact of the decision on his mom's safety.

We all knew what was needed but there was no capacity to deliver the complex support package required to even give us a chance of making some positive impact beyond "rescuing the present in the hope that the future might bring us better times." This did nothing to 

  • reduce his mom's alcohol dependency and drug use
  • decrease mom's vulnerability to sexual exploitation
  • increase her safety
  • increase her agency 
  • address Chris' care needs
  • address Chris' educational needs

....it goes on


Chris continued with us for a few weeks more until he and his mom joined the ranks of sofa-surfers, the invisible, the troubled and troubling. He was never heard of again by our service and I remember him not for the version (b) Chris, but for the version (a). When the light shone from him it was brilliant and so was he: this was a light that at that time was reduced by circumstances beyond his or his mother's control.

Chris will be in his late 30's now....I wonder.....




Thursday, 15 April 2021

Do We Understand Our Relationships With Partners & Stakeholders from Their Perspectives?

 

 

I had been involved in a piece of Team Development that related to forming partnerships new stakeholders. It still feels relevant because 
whereas the context changes, the themes remain reasonably consistent:


“How do we influence new and existing stakeholders to help them to grow and develop into the changes we are advocating?”

 

J.K. Rowling seemed to have come across the perfect solution in her “Harry Potter” series: Hogwarts had at its disposal a sorting hat. It put the right people in the right “house:” put the hat on, it spoke, and you were allocated, then on to the next person and so on….








Unfortunately, no such thing exists in our world of getting things done and we are often left to ourselves to try to establish who the supporters of change both internal and external might be. 

It was this way for the team I’d been engaged to work with. I introduced them to  the following quadrant with a view to helping them to understand how we might engage with and develop people as we work with them. It’s a journey and, like all journeys, it works better if know where you’ve started from. Admittedly, knowing where you’re going helps too, but that’s for another time!





 

I’ve applied this in several contests since then and the feedback has been positive:

·         It has helped clarify role and purpose.

·         It has given a deeper and more productive meaning to networks.

·         It has helped to establish clarity.

·         It has informed our actions.

·         It has helped us to achieve “good outputs.”

Of course, the model is pretty sterile without conversations, ones that perhaps ask the following related to each quadrant:


Bottom Right

  • What is expected of them by:
    • Change agents?
    • Their existing team/organisation?
    • What are the boundaries and limitations of their inputs/decision making?

Bottom Left

  • What do we expect of them, what can we contribute?
    • Change agents?
    • Their existing team/organisation?
    • What are the boundaries and limitations of their inputs/decision making?
  • What actions can we take to develop them, increasing their contribution to:
    • Their team(s)/organisation.
    • The project/intervention.
    • Their professional development.
    • Their personal development.
    • Their capacity to inform other decision makers.

Top Left

Clarity rules here!

    • How can we support and develop them within and throughout the process?
    • What values, attitudes, behaviours and beliefs do they bring to the process?
    • What values, attitudes, behaviours and beliefs might we develop and grow to enable them within the process?
    • Where are the areas of potential growth through reciprocity?

Top Right

How might we develop their interest, engagement and commitment/support?:

    • What are the strong messages?
    • What benefits might grow for the organisation?
    • Reputational
    • Developmental
    • Cultural
    • Environmental
    • Financial


The shifting and flexible role of the Coach, Mentor, Facilitator has much to offer here in underpinning the meaning we attach to the specific development, the people involved and our engagement on processes that create high value outputs for those involved.





Friday, 8 January 2021

Ethical Bureaucracies Enable Democracies!

 “Things will be very different when this is under control,” seems to be a stock phrase of late and it might be worth thinking about what might happen to make things work differently. Can we begin to describe a set of principles that might inform how and why we relate to each other across a range of political, economic and social contexts? What can we learn from existing ideas on how people operate, why change is necessary and the direction it should take?







We should consider the space occupied by bureaucracies in enabling the fair delivery of resources whilst supporting organisations. This is open to scrutiny driven by the necessity not to measure the efficiency of bureaucracies against a series of metrics but to consider their effectiveness in ensuring that the Ethical Purpose of the organisation is maintained and grown throughout a range of agreed contexts, values and behaviours


Context “I Wouldn’t Have Started From Here”

Given that “here” might be defined as being held in the teeth of a global pandemic that has placed huge and possibly devastating demands on economies, has re-awakened medieval uncertainties and has exposed the limitations of our collective capacity to respond to the challenges; it seems fair to ask “Who would?”


Significant social and economic shifts have led us from collectivism and co-operation towards isolation and individualism: yet it is at this very point that we are witnessing the architects of rapacious national and international individualism bereft of any answers that seem to make sense to those most afflicted by the pandemic. What we may be seeing is the emergence of a different kind of Leadership, one that places the relationship between Leadership and Service at the heart of it Values, Ethics and Behaviours: Servant Leadership.

Our starting point might well be the need to raise “questions of purpose,” in a manner that challenges the status quo, the design and purpose of organisations, outputs, and processes. In short, “If what we are doing fails to serve a greater good, one that is beyond bringing wealth to the share-holder, why are we doing it?” It is the failure to pose this question that results in our being spectators as bureaucracies are configured to bring disproportionate wealth and power to investors, rather than to ensure that services and outputs are delivered in a manner that is sustaining, encourages growth, cooperation and learning.


To Consider

Conversations about our current challenges have exposed the structural weaknesses that have unwittingly acted as an incubator for the pandemic. The weaknesses seem related to the unwillingness of power to recognise and listen to advice and suggestions that contradict its current narrative. There is a need for power to be redefined as a process that takes place within and between people. This requires a “Because I said so!” culture to begin a journey towards one where decisions are taken and enacted “Because we agree and I commit.”

If this were to happen, bureaucracies will be required to adjust so that their purpose shifts towards processes and behaviours aligned to the ethical purpose of the organisation and the relationships into which it enters. They will need to become more agile. To clarify, agility is not seen here as “speed”; it is instead viewed as “robust flexibility”-the capacity to accommodate by stretching boundaries and in doing so create new opportunities for learning, growth and discovering different types of ethical influence outside of the existing structures.






Readiness

No one would have chosen to be where we now are.  The gaps in yesterday’s certainties and assumptions have been brutally exposed there will be changes and it may well be that the powerful groups whose behaviour has helped deliver us here will seek to tighten their grip on power in the post Covid world. There is however a sense that the structures that got us into this situation are, unless they change, unlikely to get us out of it. I state with a note of caution, that I cannot recount one example of powerful groups giving away their power because everyone thought it a good idea. It was taken from them.  I’m not for a second proposing a forceful overthrow: I am suggesting a build-up of ethical pressure on politicians, the financial sector and ultimately legislators to enable us to turn a corner and do things differently.

What Can Aid Our Thought to Action Journey?


 How well placed are we to listen to what is said and not said? 

I believe that we can find some guidance in helping us to formulate questions and challenges that serve the purpose of developing Servant Leadership and in so doing, consider the change journey required to develop Ethical Bureaucracies that give active support to development, engagement and delivery. Our questions:

  1. How do we acknowledge and demonstrate that we have listened and heard?
  2. How do we reach and communicate our decisions
  3. What do we enact or defer?
  4. How do we assume the good intentions of others and not reject them as people when at the same time rejecting their performance or behaviour?
  5. How do we communicate to others that our purpose is enabled by a search for ethical wholeness?
  6. How do we remain aware to the power of the possible?
  7. How do we use ethical persuasion rather than rules-based authority?
  8. How do all members of our organisations (formal and informal) contribute to “Dreaming Great Dreams”
  9. How do we do this and maintain our day to day focus on our present purpose?
  10. What lessons do we learn from the past?
  11. How do we assimilate and describe the current reality?
  12. What are the consequences of today’s decision for future generations?
  13. How do we evidence and learn from our commitment to the growth of people?
  14. To what degree do we accept that we are stewards of our organisation and that they have a purpose beyond the day to day?
  15. How do we ensure that our organisations, our ethics, values and behaviours contribute to the greater good of society?


John Dooner-Original April 2020
Recycled with minor edits January 2021

All Art work by Beth Dooner. https://www.instagram.com/bethdooner/


Saturday, 5 December 2020

Apart from Covid & Brexit, What Should We Be Thinking About In 2021?

 


Things are in a better place than we might have hoped for-there's a vaccine and it might be the game-changer we've been hoping for. This, combined with more effective "Test, Track and Trace," has the potential to bring us to a much improved situation. But there's a "but," (isn't there always?). What have we learned and how can we apply it in a world that will have changed?


"Bright Light! Bright Light!!" (Gizmo-Gremlins 1984)


It feels that the Covid Pandemic has shone a very bright, focused beam on some residual flaws in the way we "do" things. Flawed processes and assumptions have been exposed at a time when public trust in traditional institutions has declined. That said, whatever assumptions we may hold, there is an understandable "By their deeds they shall be judged!" element to the manner in which faith and trust of all kinds is experienced. That's important because it informs future decision making.




Taken form KPMG's November UK Economic Outlook the above extract assumes that unemployment will be around 7.8.% by May 2021 with a full year effect of around 7.2%, the impact is likely to be felt disproportionately in the 16-24 year old group. As I write these numbers, I have to remind myself that what they are is one thing, what they represent is another. They represent for some, economic destruction and a collapse of hope and this can and has, been the seedbed for immense anger and challenge to the status quo.

Q: Why are scientists that develop vaccinations sad? 

A: Because all their work is in vein (Boom-Tish!!)


One of the areas I had in mind with the "Bright Light" comment concerns "Collaboration." It is here it would appear, that the global scientific community has put the political community to shame. You don't get this far, this quickly without collaboration on a grand and focused scale. 
So, what do we learn from this?

To face the challenges ahead, we must collaborate, locally, regionally and nationally and this will mean working to a set of core values that embrace what can be done rather than reinforce previously held and hugely unhelpful, local, regional, national and assumptions and beliefs. There will, as discussed in the KPMG article, be a shift away from traditional work patterns and therefore, the service/hospitality industries that support these long-established processes: they will become something else and we need to be ready.

We should learn from what works and ask if there are ways of developing those collaborations that "could do better," developing learning conversations as we do so. There is an opportunity for significant realignment of Education,Training and Wealth Creation, one that provides pathways that might exist in some areas and require development in others and as they do so, give voices and opportunities to local communities and the potential to connect and collaborate with others.

Communication styles, content and media are an essential consideration in reaching out to groups where the impacts of change are most keenly felt and as I consider this, I reflect on the sentiments of Eric Berne, a Canadian Psychiatrist and author of "The Games People Play", a lead figure in the development of Transaction Analysis. He said that we should


 
"Write (communicate) in a manner that was accessible to the average eight year old-or take another look"
 (My take on his words!)

...how can this sound advice inform approaches to communication and community engagement as we travel forward on an as yet, uncertain road?











Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Sheena Easton Sings

 Do you remember this? The song "My Baby Takes the Morning Train" Released in 1981 it sings to a time that doesn't exist anymore and some of you might give a resounding "Good!" in reply.

But there's a but. The song speaks to some pretty much embedded assumptions about work, life leisure and relationships-a sort of musical cultural folklore, one that has continued to speak to our expectations and assumptions and I'm going to suggest that for many, its narrative continues to do so

There have been changes, of course there have and I'm going to suggest that the political/cultural shifts we've seen are about to be diminished by the impacts of the Covid 19 Pandemic and what it might mean for us, the way we live, the way we work.

I wanted to find out about the WFH (Working from home) experience and made a few 'phone calls to have a chat with people known to me for some time. I've taken a few themes form those conversations and have brought them together here

  • "Last March and before lockdown, people were pretty sure that radical change was on its way 

  • The manner in which leaders and managers communicated their expectations regarding distribution of work and leading on regular “health checks” (emotional well-being as distinct from “supervision”), has had a significant impact on morale and connectivity 

 

  • Working from home positives 

      • Help with child-care 
      • Able to concentrate on tasks-a distraction free environment 
      • Ability to structure working day to include “well-being breaks” 
      • No time “lost to commutes” 
      • Making a contribution to reduced carbon emissions 
      • Out of the day to day presence of unduly aggressive managers 

 

  • Working from home negatives 

      • Work is my only escape from loneliness 
      • Challenging home relationships 
      • Pre existing conditions have re-emerged as a result of Lockdown & Working from Home 
      • Health concerns for relatives 
      • “Zoomed Out” demanding meeting schedules 
      • Absence of work based social contact 
      • Absence of work-based learning/development opportunities 
      • A keenly felt absence of informal, work related conversations and connectivity 
      • Email misunderstandings 

 

Some conversations considered the opportunities presented to us by the prolonged gap in day-to-day workplace attendance. The layout of working environments and how we organise ourselves in high intensity workspaces, discussion spaces and recreational zones. Are we able to look at the opportunities to reconsider design, taking into account the potential for a reduction in the number of people present in the workplace at any one time? 


I'm interested in how "true and real" the above is. It's important-today I have learned that Unilever are trialling a 4 day working week in New Zealand-"Wellness matters! Yet when I look at the above list, there are significant shouts that tell me that things are not well and we need to start to build an alternative story about work, our expectations and its relationship with life in its broadest meaning.

I'm happy to extend this conversation and work with those who would like to find out more about their teams' expectations, hopes and fears.

Sheena Easton's song might now describe a piece of history we're happy to leave behind but we need to consider the spaces we're creating and the assumptions that inform them. I fear we are in danger of a reaction that reinforces messages we should refuse to revisit, we need to come up with another story!

Please note-I have nothing against Sheena, she worked with Prince, you don't get there by accident!

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Can The Tuckman Model Help Us Understand What is Happening?

Tuckman: there's something so perfectly simple about this model that means it's sometimes overlooked in favour of more complex stuff.....



....and I think that's a mistake!

First introduced in the mid 1960's, the Tuckman Model has been around a while and there's a good reason for that: it works! Developed to help us understand Team Development and Dynamics, this model and conversations it primes has been my "Go to" place in conversations with Teams, their Leaders and Managers in a number of contexts. Why? Well, it helps us to talk about what might be going on and to anticipate what might be on its way: there are 4 stages that help us form up and discuss our ideas, they are:
  • Forming
  • Norming
  • Storming 
  • Performing
More recently a 5th Stage "Adjourning" has been added-for the purposes of this piece I'm staying with the original 4.

One of the challenges presented by using a model is that we need to remind ourselves that our sometimes complex and rapidly shifting work patterns don't often if ever, follow neat diagrams. So I won't include one-you can find plenty of them on Google Images (other sites are available!)
Some years ago I came across a piece of work that had shown how the model can be applied to individual and team behaviour across a range of team processes and activities. I've adapted it and made 13 YouTube Videos that discuss how each of process can be seen within the context of the Tuckman Model and what this might mean for developing a better understanding of our behaviour(s) and expectations.

The table sets out "What's going on" in the right column, the links in the left column will take you to a commentary/overview of the context. They're brief no longer than 10 minutes and most are well below.

 

 

Context

Narrative

  “Focus”

What do people focus on as change takes place?

How do we behave when we focus on what needs to be done? Whether thinking about the "big stuff" or agreeing on roles and operational area, our behaviours might define our contribution to the process. These are likely to be influenced by our individual and collective journeys within the Tuckman model. Here's an overview of what might be going on.

“Trust”

What is the “state of trust” at each stage?


We're going nowhere without it but how often do we consider how trust is affected by where we are at any particular point in our team journey? This clip gives some insights into how the concept of trust is subject to our relationship with change and our own securities/insecurities

“Team Relationships”

How might we expect relationships to change/grow/develop?


Divided, embittered and quarrelsome teams do not perform well. Ones with a sense of unity and purpose do. This clip builds on previous ideas of how we need to allow space to allow people to grow and develop through the relevant stages, establishing our values, ethics and behaviours as we so do. It's about trust & clarity, two essential "we're going nowhere fast without them," components of great teams.

“Criticism”

What takes place and where, overt, covert or productive?


An ever present in our lives, Criticism has the power to be both destructive and creative. It can drive people apart or become part of the social adhesion that binds group members together. This clip talks about how Criticism might present within the four stages and its potential to contribute to positive group and individual journeys

“Decision Making”

How do we go about taking and making decisions?


We all know what this means, that doesn’t however mean that the process is easy to describe. What is our role in setting and maintaining the ethical climate in which decisions are made? Where does confidentiality rest and is it okay to “backtrack” when we need to?


 

“Sharing of Knowledge”

Who benefits? How and when is knowledge shared and why? 

Not hearsay or gossip but knowledge. What are the disadvantages to holding on to information that under any reasonable examination would be seen as critical to enabling progress? How does our behaviour here reflect organisational culture and can we articulate the benefits of “synergous sharing”?

“Performance”

What efforts and collaborations are involved in “Performance”?

There are important conversations to be had here and they’re not about “target setting.” They are concerned with how we describe our role purpose and outputs in the context of achieving flow and excellence.

“Predictability”

How can we benefit from and go beyond predictability?

Arguably, we like a balance where life (work), is predictable enough. Too predictable and boredom takes over, ever changing relentless shifts in predictability? Expect burnout. Reaching a place where we anticipate and adjust quite naturally is a challenge for leaders and their teams.

“Understanding”

How well do we understand purpose and direction?

The greater clarity we can achieve here, the more likely it is that we will achieve some great outcomes! Ambiguity is welcome, it helps us decide the degrees of certainty under which we operate and that enables us to be more confident in developing and projecting a confident, flexible approach to how our role is both developed by ourselves and perceived by others.

“Products”

When we consider our outputs, what is going on at each stage?


Our outputs aren't limited to "work done", there are outputs related to our behaviours, our connectivity and commitment. Here, we open some discussion with the watch-phrase "keep your eyes on the outputs!"

 


“Interventions” (Overview)

When do interventions occur and how are they delivered? 

Interventions: Hands on/Hands off-they’re by no means mutually exclusive and there are times in the development cycle when we shift from one to the other. When we think about our actions in the context of the Tuckman Model, things may become clearer.

“Interventions” (Support)

As confidence and competence grows, support changes

A linear process? Not really and we might need to consider the information as part of our responses to change and a blend of leadership skills and approaches.

“Interventions” (Leader Focus”

At what point and for what purpose should leaders intervene?


At what point and for what purpose should leaders intervene? Here we take a look at the importance of the leader maintaining focus and awareness of the dynamics that might be at work within teams. We refer again to the importance of clarity and conversations that create clarity.

 

I'm happy to have a conversation with you about the model and how it might be used in your place of work. It's my belief that it has strong messages outside of the workplace too.
You can reach me on 07984409937 or mail me:


I'm sometimes asked why I use the Butterfly image-the link takes you to a brief explanation!


John.

John Dooner. DY 3Solutions.