Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Transition Coaching—Internals Only Need Apply?

If an organisation uses external coaching, most often it is transition coaching—helping an executive step into a new role.   Why then are external hires typically left to their own devices when entering an organisation?   

Recently Talent Futures hosted an evening roundtable discussion on the topic, drawing on the expertise of our senior executive coaches and representatives from three organisations with deep coaching practices. 

It’s tough to succeed as an external hire.

In 2010, Harvard Business Review pegged the externally-hired executive failure rate at 30-40% after 18 months.  In the 2013 update to Michael Watkins’ seminal book The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, up to 50% of external hires “fail to achieve desired results.”  Factor in the recruitment costs, lost opportunity of a poor hire, ill will that is generated in the organisation as a result of a poor hire, and the cost is easily a multiple of the executive’s annual salary figure.   So why do so many organisations fail to support executives with their own transition coach upon entry?

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Proven ROI on Team Building & Coaching: Talent Futures Case Study

In late 2013, a German CEO turnaround expert was appointed to an acquired manufacturing subsidiary of a global engineering company.  Over three years he transformed it from worst Health and Safety site to the leading site in Health and Safety and Sales by developing a forward-thinking and engaged workforce.

A team of four coaches and consultants from Talent Futures:

  • Coached the CEO as he transitioned from turnaround expert to steady-state leader. 
  • Provided four team building workshops to the senior team over a 15-month period. 
  • Provided transition coaching for new Directors. 
One measure of the value of the outcomes came the week after the third workshop.  The CEO and directors decided to use their newly acquired ways of working together to address an ongoing manufacturing problem.  Previously, each time a particular part was manufactured, it failed to meet specifications and the run would have to be scrapped.  Despite numerous adjustments they had made to try to solve the problem over the past several runs, the same defect was occurring. This cost them 250,000 every time the part was made.  Prior to the leadership workshop, they thought they would have to outsource the manufacture of this part.  Using the new challenge and discussion methods, however, the team solved the problem within a week and has consistently and successfully manufactured the part since.

Executive Coaching of the CEO, 2014-15

The CEO had previously transformed other subsidiaries for the British company.  This challenge was different, however, in that he was also expected to make one of the hardest leadership adjustments—from transformation

Friday, 22 December 2017

God Rest Ye Merry, Self Employed!

As an executive coach, leadership development consultant, and owner of my own business with 12 other consultants, I am not in the habit of writing about my own development and learnings. Usually I'm the one listening, challenging, summarising, affirming... Today, however, is exactly 15 years ago since I moved to the UK, launched into self-employment, and changed my entire life. As this is the season of reflection, I'm sure some of you out there are considering going solo. This blog is for you.

There's an article in yesterday's FT: It's lonely this Christmas in the white-gig economy. I'm happy to say this doesn't apply to me. It used to, but not anymore. The main theme of the article is how hard the self-employed have it, and how most work over the Christmas to New Year break. Yuck! What are they doing? All the stuff they should be doing during the rest of the year--accounts, tax prep, planning, strategy, etc. The article also says, "A survey by IPSE, the association of independent professionals and the self-employed, this year found that the top three reasons to go solo were: better work-life balance, control of work and maximising earnings." It goes on to dispel the myth of work-life balance and cites how hard you work when you are self-employed. In my experience, that is certainly true--a 60-hour work week is not uncommon.

Better work-life balance. It took me a long time to learn how to set limits on how hard I work. Like they say on an airplane, "Put your own airmask on first, then help others." This is vital advice for the self-employed. If you are not taking enough time off, you are not much good to others, particularly as a coach or consultant. But when you are self-employed it is hard to limit yourself to a 40- or 50-hour work week. There is so much to do beyond business development and delivery. I've found that having a place of retreat I can go to regularly makes the long work weeks bearable, and keeps me in better balance to help others. So instead of weekly work-life balance, mine is every 6 weeks or so. Manage it well, and clients won't notice when you are away from your homebase checking email twice a week, unless you tell them. Of course, this is only possible with help from those you work with.

Which brings me to my second big learning about self-employment. Donald T. Phillips, in his book Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times outlines all the wisdom that comes from studying Abraham Lincoln's approach to leadership. My favourite lesson in this book is "Keep searching until you find your 'Grant'" referring to Ulysses S. Grant, who was instrumental in helping Lincoln end the civil war. In short, Grant Made Things Happen. No self-employed person can do it all on his or her own, so know the things you don't like doing and what you are not very good at, and find somebody else who will be motivated to do those things well. In my experience, I had a few false starts with finding the right person, and then Peggy Bennett joined Talent Futures and together we have created a yin and yang working relationship that sees us through hectic delivery times as well as times of renewal and growth.

Control of work, the #2 reason people yearn for self-employment, is a prize worth having. In the earlier years of self-employment, it may not be yours however and you must fight against that discouragement. Doing what you can to earn a living that is broadly within your capabilities is work you must accept. As you become better known and refine your brand, then you can turn down some things to focus on what you excel in. But don't define yourself too narrowly or you may find your sector shrinking before your eyes. The market will define you to a large extent, because everybody wants a specialist. If you are motivated by variety and challenge (such as I am) you must define yourself first, know your strengths, and help potential clients see how you can deliver a wide range of services.

In 2006 I had a good foothold in the City of London as an executive coach, so much so that I struggled to find work outside of financial services or in team development. I listened to what others said about the bubble and how it couldn't last and sought inroads to other sectors--engineering, manufacturing, housing and the public sector. I put myself forward for team facilitation again and again until I won the work, and kept winning it. Eventually I brought associates into Talent Futures to help deliver work I was selling. My own energising strength in strategic mindedness and desire to lead were satisfied through growing my business, which meant I had more clear-minded focus to offer my coaching clients who were paying me to be focused on their leadership.

In short, I learned that "control of work" is not only about what you want to do, and how you do it, but also flexibly challenging yourself to let go more and stretch into new things. Without constantly revising how you approach your business, it doesn't last.

Maximising earnings, the third reason for self-employment, is hard to control when you are a coach and leadership consultant in the post-2008 economy. Sometimes there is a slump for buying such services. And while coaching and team development is needed all the more when things are in a downturn, it is one of the first things people cut back on when budgets are tight.

In January 2015, I stopped focusing obsessively on my topline growth, and started focusing more clearly on how I spend my time. I wrote myself new goals. I wanted to spend 2.5 days a week delivering coaching and consulting, 1-2 days in business development, and 1 day in writing. Anybody who has read my blog in the past may understand which goal I struggle with the most--my blogs are sporadic at best! But I do write to individual clients, I summarise, I read, I think of new ways of looking at things and writing is a big part of my delivery. Since I have focused on being more rigorous in how I spend my time, I'm happier week-to-week. And this clearly translates into how I do my work, how I show up to prospective clients and colleagues, and I find that the topline growth has occurred naturally. When it comes to maximising earnings as someone who is self-employed, the route to success is not only about marketing, business development and delivery, it is about how you present to others as you are pursuing it.

Christmas 2017 - New Year 2018. So there it is, all ye potential self-employed. There is no work/life balance unless you wrestle with yourself and find a way to achieve it. The more you try to control your work, the less of it you may have--stay open to new possibilities and better ways to define yourself and what you do, and get others to help you do it. And when it comes to maximising your earnings, focus on how to enjoy work and more of it will come to you.

This year I will be working right up to the end of Friday, as is my habit, but then Talent Futures will be closed until 2nd January. In that time I will read, dream, think, go for long walks, (and of course eat a lot, too). When I'm back in January I have a long list of projects and things to dive into. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

8 Ways to Bolster Your Gravitas Quotient

Michael Bloomberg's Got It!
Ever been told at work that you lack gravitas but then not told what that actually means?  You're not alone.

As a business psychologist focused on leadership development, whether I'm working with an individual or a team, we are essentially focusing on behaviour change.  Yet when it comes to "gravitas" there is no one set of behaviours that define it.  That's why I hosted an event on Gravitas recently.  It is also what prompted me to do a little informal research.

I went back through the hundreds of coaching plans I have on file in recent years and came up with eight categories of development needs that are often labelled as a lack of gravitas.  Keep in mind that if an executive has been selected for coaching, and lack of gravitas is a part of it, the individual still has a great deal of ability otherwise the organisation would not invest in coaching.  So this list is not a checklist.  What this list does show is how varied the term "lacking gravitas" can be.  In fact, gravitas seems to operate more as a quotient, with enough things in your favour, than it does to be a do this/don't do that list of behaviours.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Consensus on Gravitas

Christine La Garde
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, too, is gravitas.

On Wednesday evening this week, Talent Futures hosted an event for women entitled, Gravitas: So What Is It and How Do I Get It? Our guest speakers were Stephen G. Andress, a Senior Vice President at Northern Trust, and Kulbir Shergill, an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion consultant at Benton and Shergill. The event was well attended and in addition to the speakers, we had small group discussions and ended with a large-circle discussion on what we had concluded and learned from the evening, with everyone contributing. It was really gratifying to host an event on such a serious and elusive topic, and yet to have it come off as "inclusive, engaging, and friendly" as one participant phrased it. Thanks to all of you who attended and who shared the invite to others.

I opened the evening with a few introductory remarks, and then we heard from Kulbir and Stephen. This blog shares a summary of the evening.

Michelle Obama
Kulbir's main point about gravitas was that it is about what is inside you, and how you project that through your poise and speech. She spoke about being at ease with others and comfortable in your own skin. Those who are calm and measured, and assured of the value of their own contribution are often said to have gravitas. Personally, I was very pleased when Kulbir pointed out that when she was doing something that she really enjoyed (i.e., when she was in flow to use a positive psychology term) were the times that others had commented on her gravitas. She also pointed out that people with gravitas understand the social context and have something to say. And for her definition, she felt Michelle Obama was a good example. Being able to be First Lady and all the poise and grace that requires, but also to be able to comfortably let loose on television and sing along to the radio in a car with James Corden takes real sense of self! In conclusion, Kulbir said she has learned gravitas is being confident and kind, approachable not scary, poised, and above all, being yourself.

Steve approached the question of what is gravitas with the lens of having served in the military and having lived in different countries as an executive in financial services. While stating that gravitas is culturally dependent, he spoke to the things that he has seen are consistently considered gravitas. Confidence, the willingness to listen to others, and remaining calm in crisis were key themes. Those with gravitas always seem relaxed and in control of the situation, even when there are numerous fires to put out. (Nobody wants an hysterical leader!) People with gravitas ask questions, ask others' opinions, and respect others' answers. They don't feel the need to know it all themselves and remain open to others' ideas. Unreliant on their title for authority, people with gravitas are thoughtful, do not rush to judgement, and spend a lot of time listening. They don't do most of the talking. Steve concluded it is about being bigger than yourself. That is, offering solutions to others that are beyond your own interests, sharing credit, taking disagreements offline, and taking time to be prepared for meetings. It is a long list, he admitted, but not everybody has everything. You just need enough, and most of it is about your relationships with others.

In our following discussion, we explored the themes of gravitas and trust, gravitas and authenticity, and of the importance of cultural fit in your organisation in order to be seen to have gravitas. In the end, we drew the conclusion that the standards of gravitas and the behaviours that deem someone to have it will always vary, and they may indeed be different for women than for men, but what all definitions seem to have in common is the emphasis on thoughtful relationships with others, and self-awareness.

Victoria Hall
Founder of Talent Futures

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Leading HR through Brexit

A few weeks after Brexit, what might an HRD with operations in the UK be focussing on?

Leadership demands vision. One of the glaring gaps through the whole referendum campaign was the lack of a compelling or coherent picture of what the future would look like – either way. Painting pictures based on the dangers of making the wrong decision is not what gains sufficient or enthusiastic followers. So the first key task of the HRD is to ensure leaders with UK operations set out a clear vision of what Brexit means for the business. Then broadcast it loudly within the organisation. For those with unclear options on that journey, then they should at least show the decision points on that roadmap. Above all, avoid the stagnation of uncertainty.

If access to overseas people is going to become more restricted, this has significant implications. Studies suggest the impact on ‘blue collar’ workers of free labour movement within the EU has suppressed wages by 2%. The reverse of this is that employers will face upward pressure on labour rates, ahead of general inflation.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Three Ideas for Navigating the Post-Brexit World

Sunrise on moor
The other day I was coming back to London from a meeting in Birmingham.  I was working on my laptop while listening to Orange Blossom, a French band whose music is influenced by traditional music of Algeria, Brittany, Mexico, Cote d'Ivoire, and Egypt.  It is evocative and soulful, and as I pelted through the British countryside overlooking sheep and green fields, I felt deep nostalgia for ten years ago when, despite the Iraq war and Afghanistan, Britain seemed to be a United Kingdom.

The gap, however, between the Haves and the Have Nots has become chasmic, and the middle Britain dream of a job and being able to provide for the family has been out of reach for too many for too long.  In an attempt to alleviate misfortune, it is easiest to blame others.  Immigrants or the EU at large make easy targets for blame.  After all, it is easier to irrationally hope for change in others than it is to pursue change within ourselves. 

And then enter the referendum where the individual had a voice.  52% chose the blame game, 48% are left wondering what next. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Leadership at Senior Level: Making It Last, Keeping It Fresh

Today I gave a breakfast seminar at Buzzacott LLP to 26 partners in law on the topic "Leadership at Senior Level: Making It Last, Keeping It Fresh."

Key themes were:
  1. Purpose & Ambition: Know which of your strengths put you "in flow" and which deplete you. Dream big and write it down in the past tense, as if you have already achieved it. Talk about where you are going next in the present tense. Seek more ways to use your energising strengths, and don't give in too often to others' demands for you to use the talents that drain your energy.
  2. Environment & Organisation: Widen your scope of curiosity to keep fresh and to continually seek new ways of contributing and engaging with others. Consider political, cultural, social, and competitive forces and how they impact your purpose and what your clients need for the future. Connect more widely.
  3. Self-Knowledge: Strive to live your values. Don't let your own automatic responses get in the way. Know what triggers your "driver" behaviours such as perfectionism, pleasing others, being stern or tough with others. Rather than automatically indulging in those behaviours, plan out different approaches you can take in those moments that are more in tuned with your values. Ideally, these involve using your energising strengths.
In closing: Be kind to yourself by setting realistic expectations, recognise that failure is temporary, and allow yourself to fully celebrate your successes. Careers need to last a bit longer than they used to, make yours one of fulfilment and continual growth.

The audience for this talk was entirely female. For those of you guys out there who wonder why have a "women only" event, the plain truth is that it is easier to bring more women into the discussion when the audience is entirely female. Every time I attend an event that is mainly female, but with a few men, guess who are the ones who ask the questions? Yup, it's the men. Nothing against guys who put themselves forward, particularly if they ask insightful questions. At the same time, I do ardently wish more women would be able to do the same without risk of social backlash for being "too outspoken," "aggressive," or "domineering." Our silence is often automatic in mixed gender settings, I fear, and until it is not, women only events will continue to be needed.

As a leadership consultant, I'm in the business of helping people be better leaders. From my perspective there aren't different techniques or methods for women than there are for men. It is simply a matter of leadership. And to be a good leader means to reflect and question oneself. And a lot of us need a closed door environment to do that. The discussion today was rich, insightful, and passionate--and it started today after several long, golden pauses of silence and reflection.
Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures, Ltd.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Can You Really Afford to Wait? Part 2: Conflict Management Is Time Management

In Part 1 of Can You Really Afford to Wait? I outlined how a clear purpose is half the battle of managing time and achieving career fulfilment.

Equally important to the management of time is the courage to deal with conflict. 

I think it is part of our cultural DNA here in the UK that we just don't "do" conflict.  There is something about getting into the nitty gritty of it that is distasteful and so extremely uncomfortable  that we avoid it at all costs.  But guess what?  Managing conflict is the other half of achieving your full potential and being able to manage your time well.  And once you learn a few simple lessons, it actually isn't that hard, either.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Can You Really Afford to Wait? Part 1: Why a Clear Purpose is the Best Way to Manage Time

As an owner of a small consultancy, one thing you learn to do very well is manage time and get things done.  In an age where slowing down and being mindful is in vogue, and stress reduction and work/life balance are more prominent topics in the workplace, where does the entrepreneur fall on the continuum?  Well, truthfully, my pursuit of my goals wins over my desire for balance on many weeks of the year.  But taking the whole year in sum, the time I make for family and friends and new experiences is what sustains me and keeps me looking at the world with fresh eyes.  It also keeps me increasingly ruthless with how I spend my time.

Having recently been asked to create a targeted seminar on the new thinking in time management, I thought I'd share with readers of this blog some ways that executives take control of their time and create the conditions for a fulfilling career.  To me, they are one and the same.