Taking Perspective

Since starting my coaching practice I have seen time and time again the value of stepping away from a situation and taking perspective. I have seen the benefits of this both for clients and indeed myself. Ronald Heifetz et. al describe this as ‘getting on the balcony’ in their book on adaptive leadership.

I absolutely love this analogy as we all know that the perspective you have from the dance-floor is very different from the balcony where we can really see what is going on.  I have the pleasure of being coached by a colleague of mine every month or two, and this is the ideal time for me to ‘get onto the balcony’ and step out of situations in order that I might understand them better. I often walk away from a coaching session with less and often different items on my ‘to-do’ list than when I went in, but I can be sure they are the more important items as I have a better understanding of the situation.

Different people may choose different ways of taking this perspective  whether that be time alone for reflection or a discussion with someone who is not conflicted.

Most of us are constantly in a rush juggling many priorities. For 2011 is it worth considering how you might take a view from the balcony from time to time?

Emotional Intelligence and Organisational Change

 Adopting change requires a lot of effort and it requires people to take risks. Successful change efforts start by taking this head on, by creating a shared need for change.

During my corporate career, the model I used for implementing change was the GE change model CAP (Change Acceleration Process). The first three stages  of this model are about winning the hearts and minds of stakeholders.

Creating a Shared Need: this stage is about creating a common understanding of why the change is necessary, and stronger than that creating a shared need for the change to be delivered. Without a shared need actual or perceived resistance will result.

Shaping a Vision is about creating a picture of the end-game in behavioural terms. This vision needs to be clear, legitimate and widely understood.

Mobilising Commitment is a real test of the leader’s ability to bring the team with him/ her. People will need to make an investment in any change process and mobilising commitment is about bringing people to a stage where they believe the investment is worth making.

It is my assertion the the Emotionally Intelligent leader will be more effective in winning the hearts and minds of their followers and stakeholders. Whilst IQ is important, in this instance I believe EQ is even more important as a successful change effort is not necessarily about having the best idea, but being able to bring people on board with the change.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was defined by Mayer &; Salovey as ‘the ability to perceive, understand, manage and use emotions to facilitate thinking’. Whilst Goleman popularised the term, Emotional Intelligence has appeared in reseach papers as far back as the 1920’s, and it has been widely recognised that there are factors involved in driving managerial performance other than simply IQ.

One measure of Emotional Intelligence is EQi. At a global level it includes factors such as: intrapersonal, interpersonal, adaptability and stress management skills. Each of these categories are broken down further and can be seen in this link (Overview of EQi factors).

So how does Emotional Intelligence relate to implementing change?

Firstly, intrapersonal skills will enable a leader to be strong, independent and confident in their actions. You can imagine how this would help in creating the shared need, and communicating the vision.

Interpersonal skills will allow the leader to empathise with his team and take their considerations on board where possible. By considering others, the leader will have a better chance of gaining buy-in and mobilising commitment from the team. 

The interpersonal skills category in the EQi tool also includes a factor described as social responsibility which enables the leader to act in accordance with his conscience. We have all seen the consequences of leaders not acting in a socially responsible manner in recent years. For me, this is where the two models complement each other very well. Not only will an emotionally intelligent leader implement organisational change successfully from the company’s perspective, they will also do it in a socially responsible manner.

Lastly, stress management skills have become increasingly important in recent times with some companies seeing the importance of developing resilience within their people. Implementing change is not for the faint-hearted and stress management skills would certainly be an asset for anyone leading change.

The super thing about EQ is that it can be developed. I read an article recently on how EQ was successfully developed to tackle bullying by bringing babies into the classroom (Fighting Bullying with Babies). Whilst I am not suggesting that babies should be brought into the workplace, it is an example of how EQ has been developed successfully.  

As a coach, I use the EQi tool to support leadership development. This is an area of particular interest to me and I would welcome contact from anyone wishing to discuss this further.

Performance Review Meetings

In my experience, the full benefit of performance reviews is not typically achieved. My top three suggestions to increase their effectiveness are:











No surprises: An individual should not be surprised by feedback at a performance review. Feedback should be given throughout the year so the individual knows how they are getting on. If there is a culture of surprises at appraisal time, this leads to nervousness and difficult conversations which can be easily avoided. If you are in this situation now with reviews coming up, it might be worth putting yourself in the individual’s shoes so you can decide how best to give the feedback.

Treat reviews as sacrosanct in your diary. Often reviews are postponed, rushed or even cancelled, all of which send the wrong message to the individual. If this meeting is treated as important it sends a message to the individual that they are important to you and the organisation.

Try to avoid an over-emphasis on scores: Scores often end up hijacking appraisal meetings. It may be worth leaving any scoring until the second half of the meeting, so you can focus on having  a meaningful discussion about the individual’s career and contribution to the organisation in the past year and also in the future. Of course scores may come into it, but it should not be the singular focus of the meeting.

Finally, I came across this article recently by Paula Weir which may be worth reading especially if you are embarking on performance reviews in the coming weeks or months (Annual Review Meetings).

So you have successfuly got an interview…what next?

Due to feedback I received on my CV article, I have compiled some suggestions regarding interviews also. I will extend this to looking at the role of psychometrics in the hiring process at a future stage.

So the question I will address today is where do you start when preparing for an interview?  Every situation is obviously different so what I will do here is attempt to highlight some of the typical areas which present challenges and make some suggestions along the way.

(1)  The biggest challenge I have seen people facing is their ability to talk positively and succinctly about themselves, particularly after redundancy.

Rather than focusing too much on explaining what has happened and ‘telling your story’, it may be helpful to focus on your elevator speech and ensure that this is framed in a positive and forward looking manner.

(2) Someone told me once that an interview is all about two things (a) why do you want the job? and (b) why should the company hire you? This is in fact the essence of any interview.

In the current climate, many people feel that the answer to part (a) is obvious i.e. they need a job. When it comes to part (b) many also struggle to convey their strengths and articulate their fit with the role in a confident manner.

In my opinion these are the most important questions to reflect upon and bottom out beforehand. I would strongly suggest talking these through in advance with a coach or a friend as they are critical to the interview process.

(3) For many people at a senior level it may be 10 or more years since you faced an interview, and even then you may have been approached for the role rather than seeking it out yourself. Many feel frustrated and some intimidated by the prospect of facing into a long interview process.

It may be useful to frame each interview as simply a conversation where both parties are trying to understand the level of fit with each other and the balance of power is more or less equal. By doing this you may be able to present confidently and proactively ask questions to understand if this is indeed the right role for you.

Finally more than every before organisations are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that they hire the best candidate. The market has changed significantly, and preparation is more important than ever. Also, psychometrics are playing a greater part in the hiring process. As mentioned earlier, I will prepare a note on their use in the coming weeks which might shed some light on the context in which they are being used.

Leadership and Followership

Well I’m not sure if I love this or hate it but I certainly think it is interesting!

The key point that I take from this is the importance of the first follower. After all, leadership does not exist without followers and the first follower shows others how to follow. As the guy on the video clip states, the leader should embrace this first follower as an equal – after all without him the dancing guy is just ‘a lone nut’!

This clip reminds me of a leadership and followership exercise which I have conducted with different groups of people. It is a problem solving exercise with no official leader appointed, and the objective is to understand and reflect upon the group behaviour and take individual learnings from it.

On occasions, there will be many leaders and not enough followers, and the situation descends into chaos. On other occasions, there are many followers, with no-one clearly articulating how they believe the problem should be solved. Neither situation is better than the other, as either way the group struggles to solve the problem. The key to the exercise is knowing the importance of followership as well as leadership.

As business leaders we have always been taught that leadership is good, but we don’t necessarily appreciate the role of the follower.  We are all leaders and followers in different situations, and the key takeaway for me is to understand which role to fill when.

MBA Coaching Programme

The full-time MBA class of 2010/11 in the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business have completed their first semester and have dealt with all the challenges that this brings. Alongside their busy academic schedule, they are now also endeavouring to work out what the MBA will mean for their future careers. To support them with this challenge, the Smurfit Business School provides a coaching programme which consists of 3 coaching sessions spread throughout the year. Last year this programme was run as a pilot and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One student went so far as to say that it was the best part of the MBA programme.

This year Brian Marrinan (MBA Careers Manager) has enhanced the offering further. Coaching is now firmly integrated with the other elements of the professional development programme. The coaches have a good understanding of these other elements and can now encourage students to bring other materials to bear on the coaching agenda where appropriate (e.g. results of team and individual psychometric testing, career planning sessions, networking skills sessions). By doing this, students can now address coaching agendas relating to Leadership Style as well focusing very specifically on their career options post-MBA.

This year there are 4 coaches assigned to the 45 students and I am thrilled to be part of this team. I genuinely feel energised when working with the MBA students, and I look forward to working with them again this year.

An example of Inspirational Leadership

 There is much talk these days about a lack of leadership in many areas of society in Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to share an example of inspirational leadership.

Young Social Innovators (YSI) is an organisation whose mission is to develop young people as social innovators. Their model is not dissimilar to the Young Scientists Exhibition in that it involves secondary school students developing and presenting projects, however in this case, these projects relate to social issues (e.g. bullying, green issues, integration challenges in schools etc). YSI has existed for 10 years and at this point:

  • 30,000 students have completed YSI projects
  • 5,178 students are currently developing projects for the academic year 2010/11
  • 48% of schools who have transition year are signed up to the programme.

To enable this, YSI train 200 educators/ teachers in social innovation education every year.

This growth shows the level of commitment from the educational community in Ireland. This commitment is the result of the belief that these projects are resulting in the significant positive development of those who participate.

These students are our leaders of the future, and I believe that this programme can genuinely have an impact on the fabric of Irish society. This is a credit to all those involved within YSI and throughout the educational system.

For more information see their web-site: Young Social Innovators

Pictured above are John O Shea, Patron of Young Social Innovators, Manchester and Ireland star, with Sr Stanislaus and Rachel Collier, Co-founders of YSI and students from Portmarnock Community School, call all second level schools to sign up to Young Social Innovators for this years programme!

Increase your chances of getting that interview

A CV has one function, and that is getting you to an interview. I am conscious a lot of people entering the job market now may not have applied for a new job for 10 or more years so I have written my top 5 pointers to consider when building your CV:

#1:  Start with a blank sheet of paper, and consider the biggest achievements of your career. What are you most proud of? What are the key skills demonstrated by those achievements? Reflect these in your CV.

#2: The key points should jump off the page. Most recruiters spend no more than 30 seconds on most CV’s. Give your CV to a friend and ask them to spend no more than 30 seconds looking at it – what jumped off the page for them?

#3: Focus on deliverables not responsibilities. Two people can have the same responsibilities but do the job to different standards. What real legacy have you left behind you?

#4: Ensure the bullets are dynamic, tangible and in order of importance where possible. This can be achieved by using a past tense verb at the beginning of sentences (e.g. delivered, achieved, led) and by quantifying your achievements.

#5: It goes without saying but tailor the CV to the job and ask someone else to look at it through the eyes of the recruiter.