Posted by: mikeduckett | June 13, 2012

In The Media

On 7th June 2012 Mike Duckett co-presented his first show for Marlow FM with Mark Harris, The Enterprise Doctor. Their guest was Jim Hetzel of Zebedee Internet, a local expert on Search Engine Optimisation.  

At www.youtube.com/choosingseoprovider we talked about SEO in general, what it is, how & why to do it effectively, as well as how to choose an SEO provider.

At www.youtube.com/cheatgoogle we talk about why you shouldn’t try to cheat Google!

The final clip from the 90-minute programme is at www.youtube.com/bestsearchengine and talks about which is the best search engine to use.

7 Ways To Make Sure Your Coach Works For You

4. Have a goal for each session

This should have been included with item number 4 but somehow got missed! It’s a short but important point…..

There is a saying, “if you don’t have an agenda you’ll end up on someone else’s”.

So we’re back with the responsibility issue again.

To make sure your coach is always working for you then along with having a clear overall goal for your work together, I would recommend you prepare for each meeting by thinking about what you want to have achieved by the time you leave.

If you arrive without a clear idea of what your outcome is then you will be tempting your coach to think about what they think you should want, and who knows what mood they might be in and what unconscious forces are driving them that day!

Some good questions to ask yourself to help you prepare might be:

  • “If we could make anything happen in this meeting, that would take me one step closer to my goal, what would that be?”
  • “If I am to leave this meeting knowing I have made progress, how will I know?”
Posted by: mikeduckett | February 23, 2012

Big Bonus = Poor Performance. Whose Fault Is That?

Forgive me for feeling the warm glow of vindication right now!

In another era I was in a senior sales position, responsible for the performance – or should I say results – of a sales force of some hundreds of people of varying levels of skill.  I’m hedging a bit here because although in the corporate world I was held responsible for their performance, I was always acutely aware that I could only really be responsible for my own performance as their leader/manager, but that I would definitely be accountable for their results!

I could influence their behaviour by offering the right training and the right kind of environment (leadership culture etc) for them to perform at their best but when it came to the crunch, as they sat in front of customers it was down to them and only they were responsible for what they did next.

Two current events came together recently to remind me of these times:

1. Yet another football team manager was sacked because of his team’s poor performance. The only reason I know this (people who know me will tell you it’s hard to underestimate my interest in football) is because something very unusual occurred: the players took responsiblity for their own performance – even they realised the manager can’t be responsible for what they do on the pitch! (See Daily Mail, “Blame us, not Mick!”)

2. Big city bonuses are still in the news and there was a lot of discussion around whether they are rewarding failure or success and whether they are appropriate incentives to improve performance. (See e.g. FT, “City’s bonus culture comes under fire”)

So how do these events come together to remind me of past times? Well, because one of the accepted practices in sales management is to run incentive or bonus schemes to ‘motivate’ the sales people. In other words, after recruiting the right people and offering the right training, a key area of my performance as sales manager was to also offer ever more elaborate and expensive bonus schemes.

Now the first point is that although I took 100% responsibility for my actions as a leader of sales people (to train them, inspire them, fight their corporate corner, etc.) that’s not the same as being responsible for how they performed ‘on the pitch’. Like Mr McCarthy, I knew that in reality neither I nor the team could control the result (goals or sales) and as any good performance coach will tell you “control the controllables” and “separate results from performance”. This may be nerve-racking for the board of management who need to feel in control of results, but in fact it’s far more effective to focus your attention on what matters – what you’re doing right now that could lead to or hinder a result. Rest assured this attitude has helped British cycling teams under Performance Director David Brailsford, to achieve world-class performance. He’s said before that no coach or manager ever won or lost a medal, only the rider does that by focusing on riding!

So, as I thought back to what my responsibilities were as sales manager and checked that I had stayed focused on my performance, I was reminded of those incentive schemes and my nagging doubts about them at the time.

Throughout my time in sales management I kept up with research that had first intrigued me as a psychology undergrad, relating to the effects of rewards and punishments on performance. I had always known that the effects were not as simple to predict as seemed to be implied by the advocates of ‘offer them a trip to the Bahamas and they’ll work their socks off’ incentive packages. I was always looking for ways to increase sales people’s focus on their skills right there in front of customers; skills they could be proud of and enjoy exercising and I had a more than a niggling doubt that my incentive trip to the Bahamas was going to distract them!

I knew the evidence was there that offering rewards could actually reduce performance by focusing people away from the intrinsic rewards of exercising a skill and onto extrinsic events & results. In fact I went as far as buying my MD a copy of Kohn’s provocative book Punished by Reward , but I decided it would be a braver man than me that would suggest we overturn years of incentives, which predictably had now become part of the expected package. So I never pushed it with him and I doubt he ever read it. What I did was propose that we launch an ‘Action Aid’ incentive scheme. Action Aid is the charity that allows donors to sponsor a child, thus creating a sense of a direct link between the donor and the receiver. My idea was that we offer the usual bonus but that when awarded, the money actually went to Action Aid and at the awards ceremony the sales representatives would see video footage of the children who directly benefitted.

When I presented the idea to the board they were almost speechless and thought I must be losing it or at least ‘on something’ (bit rich given it was a pharmaceutical company!).

That brings me to my final point of vindication: I’ve been reading some contemporary research on the effects of bonuses on performance and other measures such as job satisfaction. Groups from Harvard Business School and University of British Columbia (Norton et al) studied a pharmaceutical sales team, bank workers and a sports team, offering incentives to spend on themselves and on others. They discovered that “…when organizations give employees the opportunity to spend money on others – whether their co-workers or those in need – both the employees and the company benefit, with increased happiness and job satisfaction, and even improved team performance”.

A finding of particular interest to me was that for return on investment (ROI) in the schemes. So, using the hardest-nosed measure of all, what was the outcome? I quote: “On sales teams, for every 10€ given to a team member to spend on herself, the firm gets just 3€ back – a net loss – whereas for every 10€ given to a team member to spend on the team, the firm gets back a remarkable 52€.

Similarly for sports teams, every $10 spent on oneself led to a 2% decrease in winning percentage, whereas $10 spent pro-socially led to an 11% increase in winning percentage.”

Vindication!

Posted by: mikeduckett | November 2, 2011

Creativity: Getting In The Zone

‘When I were a lad’ my dad, who was a very practical engineer would say to me “OK if you’ve thought about it [the issue] now go and forget it – do something else – you’ll know the answer soon enough”. Of course I thought “oh great; that’s a real help!” However, he was often right and I would have an ‘Aha’ moment sometime much later.

Later as a psychology undergrad I remember hearing about the classic 5 stage model of the creative process:

Immersion: becoming immersed and deeply curious about an issue

Incubation: Chewing over the ideas and then just letting them settle into the subconscious domain to make connections with other, until now unrelated ideas

Insight: The ‘Aha’ moment when a new creative idea comes into the mind – often unannounced. (see New Insights on the Creative Brain)

Evaluation : criticising and deciding if this really is useful (the cold light of day test)

Execution: The bit where you just have to elaborate, twist and tweak to make the idea into something workable and real. It’s the hard bit of Edison’s saying, “creativity is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

Because it’s such a valuable state to tap into no matter what your station in life, there’s plenty of  ‘top 10 ways to get creative’ lists out there along with more gurus than you can shake a stick at! Like most areas of performance I think the creative state is just too individualised to lend itself to generic lists of tips. For some people I’ve worked with, facilitating their personal metaphor for this abstract and complex state has been very valuable to them to help understand and express themselves. (e.g. Like a Kid In a Sweetshop)

Now the best known expert on the state of ‘flow’ (as per athletes getting into the zone), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has turned his attention to flow and creativity.  He’s interviewed a large range of people known for their creativity working in the arts and humanities, the sciences and various business sectors, looking for the common thread in personality, upbringing and environments. But if you’re hoping for the secret keys to becoming more creative his opening remarks will disappoint: “There are no simple solutions…….and a few unfamiliar ideas.

Looking for the creative personality type is perhaps a lost cause as he can’t identify any personality traits that clearly define creativity and he can only say with confidence that what makes creative personalities stand out is complexity. Indeed you and I may regard these people as being full of contrasts: if you like your people to fit nice categories; cooperative and responsible then you may be surprised to find they are both cooperative and aggressive; both responsible and irresponsible. They can be both energetic and yet sleep-in a lot. They can be both introvert and extrovert. They can be both humble and proud. They can both fantasize and be rooted in reality (creative people are original without being bizarre).

One thing that struck me was none of these highly successful creative inventors, scientists, artists and business people were in it for the money. Just as Csikszentmihalyi’s other work on flow-states shows, these people enjoy the creative task as its own reward, regardless of any extrinsic result or incentive.

So is there anything here to help you get into your own creative zone more often? Well there is a list of sorts but not of the ‘top 10 secrets’ type; more of a set of suggested experiments, which at the very least will help broaden your experience of life. The idea is that we can all step out of a one-dimensional existence of who we think we are and try on some of the contrasting viewpoints to add some complexity.

  • Try to be surprised every day: e.g. stop and look for the unusual
  • Try to surprise one other person every day: e.g. ask the question you wouldn’t normally dare to
  • Wake up a with a clear goal to look forward to: find something meaningful to achieve every day
  • Make time for reflection and relaxation:  typical activities to stimulate subconscious processing are tasks that are enjoyable and distract your attention e.g. walking, showering, driving etc

Finally, Csikszentmihalyi uses a metaphor I like when he encourages us to try on new ways of thinking such as always entertaining the opposite conclusion – instead of “I got the sack because the boss doesn’t like me”, what if  “I got the sack because I don’t like the boss?” – he says “breaking habits is a little like breaking your own bones” …….I leave you to think how!

Posted by: mikeduckett | October 3, 2011

7 Ways To Make Sure Your Coach Works For You

6 . If it isn’t helping, say so!
7. Communicate, communicate & communicate

 

 

6 . If it isn’t helping, say so!
This may seem so obvious but it is easy to leave a coaching meeting not feeling as though you’ve made progress, perhaps hoping that something will happen later. Maybe it will, but if not, then raise this with your coach because the way you have been approaching the subject together simply hasn’t helped.

The coach needs to know as its only feedback and good coaching should not be wedded to a particular technique so flexibility is required.

This is the essence of ‘making your coach work for you’ – if it isn’t working bring this to the coaching meetings and with enough commitment and flexibility you can still make progress together.

7. Communicate, communicate & communicate
Finally, to make your coach work for you communicate with them as regularly as you can. The whole essence of the coaching relationship is communication and so it’s hard to see how you could have too much of this.

When I work with professional sports clients they are used to reflecting on their performance and progress and sharing this with me as coach. This is less true of clients from other walks of life, especially business clients.

Although I always tell people I’m available anytime on the phone to keep in touch and share what I call ‘hot off the press stuff’ as soon as it happens, in the early days of a coaching relationship I rarely get calls between meetings. Yet constant feedback on what’s happening – situations, thoughts, reactions, behaviours and outcomes – allow me to both help there and then and to prepare for the next meeting.

If nothing else it helps save on catch-up time in the meetings!

Posted by: mikeduckett | August 24, 2011

7 Ways To Make Sure Your Coach Works For You

7 Ways To Make Sure Your Coach Works For You

5. Be prepared to focus your thoughts on yourself

Thinking back to what one client of mine said about the right focus (it was as though my job was to make him think about him, whilst back at work everyone else’s job was to make him think about them – his boss, his team, his customers etc); the job of the coach is to focus the conversation back on the client and keep all the other people (and issues they bring) where they belong i.e. as simply the context within which the client has to perform at their best.

This is really important so please keep this in mind when you talk with your coach. It is so easy to start by talking about the situation you find yourself in right now; maybe your colleagues are being difficult, or maybe your boss or customers are not playing ball or maybe the economy is causing you problems.

Starting in this way is fine as you both need to explore and understand the details of the circumstances in which you need to perform. However, if you notice that you are well into the conversation and your coach has not moved the focus back to YOU then something is wrong. The conversation is in danger of staying on a consultancy level, where you’ll be waiting for a solution to an external situation to be suggested at some point.

At this stage your coach will probably be asking something such as “given all that, how do you need to be thinking, feeling and behaving to achieve your goal under these conditions?” In other words, the focus should now revert to you in order for you to have the opportunity to consider how to perform/respond to your situation.

Sometimes clients who are not used to making their coach work for them are surprised to have to constantly reflect on themselves and wonder what they are paying for if the coach isn’t going to give them any answers! Sometimes people are simply uncomfortable with self-reflection; if so this could be just what they need!

Posted by: mikeduckett | August 4, 2011

7 steps to making sure your coach works for you

7 Steps to Making Sure Your Coach Works for You

No 3.  Have a goal for the whole process

This is vital if you want to keep control of the coaching process. Although you may enjoy every meeting and come away feeling ‘better’, inspired or energised it is easy to suddenly realise after a lot of time spent with your coach that you haven’t actually moved any closer to what you wanted at the outset.

Even if you did your thinking early on about why you want to work with a coach and decided you didn’t want an advisor or a trainer to teach you something, or a consultant to answer a business issue, or a therapist to help fix a personal issue, make sure you spend as much time as necessary early on in the coaching to set a clear goal.

As we discussed before, it may be that you’re very clear about what you don’t want or what you haven’t achieved yet but you’re not so clear about the positive goal you do want to achieve. That’s fine so long as you ensure your coach stays focused on this early goal clarification step before you move on.

There is good evidence that simply being able to imagine and visualise yourself achieving a goal puts you well on the way to making this future imagined scenario happen. In one of the most well-known studies on Creative Visualization in sports, Russian scientists compared four groups of Olympic athletes in terms of their training schedules:

  • Group 1 = 100% physical training;
  • Group 2 – 75% physical training with 25% mental training;
  • Group 3 – 50% physical training with 50% mental training;
  • Group 4 – 25% physical training with 75% mental training.

Group 4, with 75% of their time devoted to mental training, performed the best. “The Soviets had discovered that mental images can act as a prelude to muscular impulses.”

See e.g.:

Robert Scaglione, William Cummins, Karate of Okinawa: Building Warrior Spirit, Tuttle Publishing, 1993, ISBN 0-9626484-0-X.

Martin, K.A., Hall, C. R. (1995). “Using Mental Imagery to Enhance Intrinsic Motivation.” Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 17(1), 54-69.

One method I use to help me (and my clients) stay focused is by writing a clear goal statement in one sentence and having this pasted on the office wall at all times in the meeting. The rule is that at any time in a discussion either of us can ask the question, “how is this item related to moving closer to this goal?” If it isn’t then we can either discuss if we need a separate goal or if we can drop the topic and move back to the original goal.

Once you’ve decided you really do want to work with a coach then to make sure that coach works for you, take responsibility for that work. It’s like most things in life; the more you put in the more you get out. This is true of coaching.

To draw on the world of elite sports for a moment, the British Cycling team performance director, David Brailsford,    interviewed after a world-beating performance by the team at the Beijing Olympics, told how he had to change the attitude of both coaches and cyclists to coaching. He pointed out that no coach ever won a medal – only the cyclist on the track could do that and at that moment the cyclist is totally responsible for their performance. Also during training the cyclist has to be in charge of their own development. It’s not the coach’s agenda that drives the process.

I know it may be stating the obvious but it is true that when you work with a coach you will be responsible for any change in your performance. The least useful thing you could do for yourself would be to sit back and relax in front of your coach waiting for them to give you the magic injection!

This means that to make your coach work for you please be prepared to make it work by:

  • Knowing the overall goals you want to achieve from the work; if you’re not absolutely clear then take control by asking your coach to help you get clear.
  •  Setting your own outcomes for your conversations: what do you want from this meeting or call that will move you at least one step closer to your goal? If your coach prefers to take over and set the agenda be prepared to challenge this and suggest your own ways of using your time together.
  • Agreeing at the end of each session a plan of action – who will do what to keep you moving towards your goal between now and the next session.
  • When you’ve agreed the action, keep this as a focus for yourself i.e. find a way of preventing everyday events from taking over. One client of mine put it well when he said it was my job was to make him think about him, whilst back at work everyone else’s job was to make him think about them – his boss, his team, his customers etc.

Remember, the session isn’t an opportunity for the coach to demonstrate how effective they are – it’s an opportunity for them to demonstrate how effective you are!

Posted by: mikeduckett | June 29, 2011

7 steps to making sure your coach works for you

7 Steps to Making Sure Your Coach Works for You

No 2.   Take responsibility

Once you’ve decided you really do want to work with a coach then to make sure that coach works for you, take responsibility for that work. It’s like most things in life; the more you put in the more you get out. This is very true of coaching.

To draw on the world of elite sports for a moment, the British Cycling team performance director, David Brailsford,    interviewed after a world beating performance byat the Beijing Olympics, told how he had to change the attitude of both coaches and cyclists to coaching. He pointed out that no coach ever won a medal – only the cyclist on the track could do that and at that moment the cyclist is totally responsible for their performance. Also during training the cyclist has to be in charge of their own development. It’s not the coach’s agenda that drives the process.

I know it may be stating the obvious but it is true that when you work with a coach you will be responsible for any change in your performance. The least useful thing you could do for yourself would be to sit back and relax in front of your coach waiting for them to give you the magic injection!

This means that to make your coach work for you please be prepared to make it work by:

  • Knowing the overall goals you want to achieve from the work; if you’re not absolutely clear then take control by asking your coach to help you get clear.
  •  Setting your own outcomes for your conversations: what do you want from this meeting or call that will move you at least one step closer to your goal? If your coach prefers to take over and set the agenda be prepared to challenge this and suggest your own ways of using your time together.
  • Agreeing at the end of each session a plan of action – who will do what to keep you moving towards your goal between now and the next session.
  • When you’ve agreed the action, keep this as a focus for yourself i.e. find a way of preventing everyday events from taking over. One client of mine put it well when he said it was my job was to make him think about him, whilst back at work everyone else’s job was to make him think about them – his boss, his team, his customers etc.

Remember, the session isn’t an opportunity for the coach to demonstrate how effective they are – it’s an opportunity for them to demonstrate how effective you are!

Posted by: mikeduckett | May 27, 2011

7 steps to making sure your coach works for you

Here it is in a nutshell:

  • Be clear why you want a coach
  • Take Responsibility – for everything that happens!
  • Have a goal for the whole process
  • Have a goal for each session
  • Be prepared to focus your thoughts on yourself
  • If it isn’t helping say so
  • Communicate, communicate & communicate

1.  Be Clear Why You Want a Coach

Bearing in mind all the career routes your coach could have taken to get into into coaching (via ‘therapist’, consultant, trainer, teacher, guru and psychologist) and the possible style bias, to make sure you choose the right coach it’s important you know why you want to work with one.

Got a Goal?

Of course if you have a goal – something you’d like to achieve or succeed at – then get yourself a coach who will start there and keep you focused on that end point. You may well address issues and problems along the way but that will be done in the context of this goal-focus.

Got a problem?

However, if for example, your end point is to resolve a personal issue then you may be better off turning to a therapist or counsellor. Indeed if your problem is as serious as say, depression then a coach should in fact refer you to therapy. After the issue is resolved you can then hire a coach to set some goals you can work towards.

Want advice?

Perhaps your issue or problem is a business one that you want advice on, in which case you would be wise to choose a consultant or even a guru with expertise in this business area.

You may well choose a coach to help you clarify your business goals and then develop your performance to achieve them but, unlike a consultancy conversation which will be about the business, your coaching conversations will be about you, albeit in the context of the business but still focused on you and your performance.

Whilst thinking about gurus or expert advisors, an interesting (almost perverse) reason I have encountered for requesting coaching is to be in control. On a few occasions I have been invited to have a coaching conversation only to realise the client doesn’t want to take responsibility for the agenda and wants to solicit advice – only to be able to argue and reject that advice! If you suspect your motive is something similar, perhaps to ‘have some ideas to push against’, then my recommendation is still to hire a guru or expert advisor as they are more likely to regard their job as done once the advice is given regardless of whether you take it or not.

Don’t know what you want?

I have worked with many clients who don’t have a personal problem they want to address nor a business issue they want advice on, and they certainly haven’t wanted me to teach them anything. They simply didn’t know what they wanted!

Sound familiar? Most of us at times experience the vague feeling that things aren’t right but we haven’t yet clarified what would be. This could be because there is a notion that a basic survival motivation is one to ‘move away from’ danger and this is more fundamental to survival than the motivation to ‘move towards’ desired goals. When the building is on fire the important thing is to run away; you can think about where to later!

You can work on this with a coach because although coaching is goal-focused, in this case your goal is “to know what your goal is” and sometimes a useful start point is to clarify exactly what you don’t want or what isn’t right in your life then work from here towards what you do want or how things would have to be for you to feel happier about them.

Posted by: mikeduckett | February 8, 2011

Positive TV

Did you happen to watch the recent Michel Roux Jnr reality TV series, ‘Service‘?

At last a program that uses the power of television positively! The show took 8 young people who had lost their way or never had one – from public school & graduate James; “I haven’t got a definitive direction of where I want to go” to Ashley; “opportunities like this don’t happen for kids like me from my estate in Leeds” – and offered them the opportunity to compete for two apprenticeships, one as sommelier and one as maitre-d.

At first I thought was this was going to be yet another reality program that set people competing against each other simply in order to film the sad drama of how each ‘loser’ was kicked out and how they coped (hopefully badly); the winner just providing a brief contrast.

The producer’s blurb cut little ice with me: “….. this isn’t just about transforming these young people into great waiters. Good service involves discipline, care for others and self-confidence so, for Michel, learning to serve others will mean developing essential life skills.” Oh yeh? – this is TV and I’ll believe that when I see it!

How wrong I was! Michel actually meant what he said, even to the extent that the only booting off was done with genuine reluctance and with the other’s morale in mind. The show wasn’t even about Michel, although he and his staff became excellent supporting cast.

This is how this extremely powerful medium (TV) should be used.

Soon after the first dreadful ‘reality’ shows appeared (Big Brother, Castaway etc) I discussed the new genre with a client of mine who is a TV presenter. We both agreed, what a waste of a format! What a missed opportunity to do something useful with the tremendous reach of modern TV. We just didn’t agree that viewing figures could only come from watching attention seekers being manipulated and focusing on their weaknesses.

We even tried to interest production companies in the alternative, where participants were given real opportunities with the focus on how, with the right support, they can come back from failure and achieve against the odds. About achievement, not beating others. Of course no one was interested so we’ve had to wait until viewers seem to be tiring of the negative norm before a production company has stuck its neck out. Well done them and BBC 3.

Throughout the series Michel has shown genuine concern (along with much frustration) for his trainees. So much so that right at the end when he’s trying to decide who to award the single once-in-a-lifetime maitre-d apprenticeship to, in order not to have to choose between excellent candidates, he creates another apprenticeship and immediately offers another trainee a job at Le Gavroche! Can you imagine that happening on X Factor……..

I already have feelers out to talk to Michel – if anyone knows him please put him in touch!!!!!

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