CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 15 October 2002

Brought to you by the Brefi Group: "Developing your business through strategy, facilitation and executive coaching – internationally."

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Editor: Richard Winfield,
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Welcome to this issue of CorporateCoach – a free newsletter for senior executives and teams in organisations interested in using coaching to improve corporate performance. Please share it with colleagues and contacts who will benefit from reading it.

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HOT NEWS: Our on-line management skills analysis at /feedback/ has attracted more than 2,500 users. If you haven't used it yet why not check it out now. You will find separate training needs analysis forms for Personal Effectiveness, Managing Communications, Managing People, Effective Directorship and Corporate Culture. Complete one and you will receive an instant analysis, together with a comparison with the results of others who have already used them.

HOT TIP: Coaching in its role as facilitator is particularly valuable during the budget and strategy planning season. And coaching a team before a presentation can dramatically improve performance – as well as self confidence.

The Brefi Group corporate coaching packages include executive coaching at top and senior level, coaching skills workshops, team diagnostic, facilitation and team development ...[more]


  1. Editorial: Growth of executive coaching
  2. Coaching notes: Fruits tomorrow
  3. Book review: First, break all the rules
  4. Tools notes: Measuring the strength of a workplace

1.     Editorial: Growth of executive coaching

Talking to people in the business world, there still appears to be a lot of uncertainty out there and many organisations are reining in their budgets. What is interesting though is that the use of Executive Coaching continues to grow even in these challenging times.

Coaching is surviving (and growing) because it is actually delivering results both for the organisation and for the individual. People being coached are seeing that they are becoming more effective and delivering better results for their business.

And that is the key. The coaching must be focused on the business context and delivering a real impact to the bottom line. Coaching that doesn?t do this can be a pleasant and positive experience for the individual and yet the organisation doesn?t benefit as much as it might.

When times are tough, people feel increased pressure to deliver and, perhaps, to hold onto their jobs. At times like this, it is only through a solution tailored to the specific needs of the business that results can be achieved quickly ? general interventions take too long to work, if ever.

Time pressure is intense and coaching can achieve significant benefits for as little as two hours a month; allowing the executive to stand back and gain a new perspective on their situation leading to better focused decisions and actions.

So, despite the challenging, fast-moving and uncertain times that we live in, and maybe even because of these things, excellent Executive Coaching is delivering real business benefit when targeted at senior executives and managers ? the people who can make the biggest difference.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you, then please complete our contact form.

2.     Coaching notes: Fruits tomorrow

A story from India submitted by S G Bapat

This is a story of a medium scale manufacturing unit in western Maharashtra (India) employing around 300 people, including managers, supervisors and senior and junior workers with varying educational and family backgrounds. However, by and large one thing was common and that is their ?rural? background. We were associated with the units as training and development consultants. We were trying our educational effort to be directed towards harnessing the creativity of employees and we thought one of the surest ways was to encourage employees to form quality circles and use the principle of ?Let go? . . .

Our efforts started gaining some rewards in terms of forming quality circles. In about six months period about 18 circles were formed with various attractve names as ?Pragati? (meaning progress), Anubhav (meaning experience) Suryamukhi (meaning Sunflower) to mention a few. As it usually happens, some circles were meeting regulary and trying to identify the problems and struggling for solutions while some were not very sure whether it is likely to work and were rather on the fence. A few others were projecting their real problems like ? not getting the co-operation from their peers or supervisors .. . or ?Managers are neglecting our sincere effort? etc. Since we were used to these varied responses, we were ?listening? and ?coaching? in our small way.

There was a regional conference on Quality Circles in the nearby town and management agreed to send one QC for the convention. The Circle was invited to make a presentation. Everybody in the circle started making notes, preparing transparencies, handouts etc and let me assure you that all this they were doing in their own time and with their own resources. The Management agreed to depute one officer along with the Quality circle members at attend and facilitate.

The ?D? day came. All the members assembled at one point early morning and took public bus to reach the destination. They reached in time attended the conference which started with the usual ?tall talk? (If I may say so . . .) about the need for and the utility of Quality Circles as a step towards employee empowerment. Our ?pragati? quality circle, which was the only circle from rural areas, got very much impressed by the glittering presentations made by a few other circles. There was a bit of nervousness, but all the members took it as a part of the game.

Now it was the turn of ?Pragati? Quality circle to make its presentation. Twenty minutes were allocated to them. To our relief, the leader as well as other members did a good job of expressing their thanks for the support given by management, co-opeation extended by peers etc. In the core of the presentation, one active member explained how the methods improvement was made and the same was appreciated by supervisors and managers.In addition to the intangible benefits, they also could save around twenty thousand rupees due to new innovative method. Clap.. clap.. clap. And we thought relieved. The enthusiastic anchor person said at the end,?friends, any questions?? and there came a question from one corner : ?You said, that your circle helped the management to save twenty thousand rupees - am I right? - then tell me, what financial reward was offered by the management to all of you circle members?? (It was a good question. But let me tell you inside part of the story . . In that particular month it was not possible for the company to pay the salary for that month on 10th due to some financial problem and hence as a stop-gap arrangement about 60% of the salary was given as an advance with a promise to pay remaining 40% shortly.)

There was a pin-drop silence in the hall. Everybody was anxious to hear from the leader as to what financial benefit was given by the management to a team which suggested a change in the method leading to saving of around twenty thousand rupees. The Leader of the team (not very highly educated!) stood up and said, ?I can understand the curiosity in asking this question to us.? He put his hand on the pocket of the shirt where one ball point pen was tucked. He took the pen out and said, ?This is what we got from the management - yes each member was given one pen in appreciation of what we did. However, let me tell you my friends, these are the days of watering the plant . . . We are sure that when the tree will bear fruits, all the employees will get the fruits.?

It was extremely difficult for all of us including the officer of the company to visualise that ordinary people can do extra-ordinary jobs. It was a matter of immeasurable satisfaction for us as consultants.

I am reminded of an article by leading management consultant Woodruff Imberman entitled ?unsuccessful Executives in Automotive Manufacturing? in which he mentions why some CEOs in the manufacturing industries fail. He has stated : ?Disregard or disrespect for subordinates, as one of the key reasons of failure. Fortunately we could bring out this lesson for the management through a demonstration effect.

Dr S G Bapat is a management consultant in Pune, India.
He can be contacted on e mail

3.     Book review: First, break all the rules

I love books based on research. So much of what we do is based on assumptions, memories of past reports, based on different circumstances or shoddy science. To put it bluntly, much of our lives are based on old wives tales.

Occasionally there is a book that challenges old assumptions and proves them wrong. I love these books.

I have written in the past about Built to Last and have claimed that it is the one book every manager or strategist must read. I am looking forward to reporting to you its sequel – Good to Great, which is another 'essential' read.

In the meantime, I have been reading First, break all the rules. The title appeals but the main attraction was all the reports I was receiving from colleagues.

The sub-title is "What the world's greatest managers do differently". It is a modelling book. how to find out what works!

This book by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman has a unique resource. It is based upon a detailed analysis of interviews by the Gallup Oganization of over eighty thousand managers. Some of these managers were in leadership positions. Some were mid-level managers. Some were front line supervisors. But all of them had one or more employees reporting to them. They focused their analysis on those managers who excelled at turning the talent of their employees into performance.

Over the last 25 years Gallup has interviewed more than a million employees, asking hundreds of different questions. The researchers searched these for patterns related to productivity, profitabiity, retention and customer satisfaction. They eventually identified twelve questions with which they could measure the strength of a workplace. It is a hierarchical list based on answering the questions "What do I get?", "What do I give?", "Do I belong here?", and "How can we all grow?". The questions are listed in the next section.

Selection and management

The researchers found that the manager was the key to building a strong workplace. Great managers focus on the first six questions. To be able to do this, they must be able to do four activities extremely well: select a person, set expectations, motivate the person, develop the person.

They quoted a mantra: -

People don't change that much
Don't waste time trying to put in what was left out.
Try to draw out what was left in.
That is hard enough.

This insight is the source of their wisdom. It explains everything they do with and for their people, especially why they do not help people fix their weaknesses.

As a result: -

  • When selecting someone, they select for talent . . . not simply for experience, intelligence, or determination.
  • When setting expectations, they define the right outcomes . . . no the right steps.
  • When motivating someone, they focus on strengths . . . not on weaknesses.
  • When developing someone, they help them find the right fit . . . not simply the next rung on the ladder.

They define three talents:-

Striving talents explain the why of a person.
Thinking talents explain the how of a person
Relating talents explain the who of a person

When selecting, try to identify one critical talent in each of the three talent categories. Use these three talents as your foundation. Focus on them during the interviewing process. Mention them when asking people for referrals. Do not compromise on them, no matter how alluring a candidate's resume might appear.

Remember to differentiate between skills, knowledge and talents.

Customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction was one of the measures by which they determined a manager's success. So, how did they measure customer satisfaction? They identified a hierarchy of four customer expectations consistent across various types of businesses and types of people: -

  • At the lowest level, customers expect accuracy.
  • The next level is availability.
  • At the third level customers expect partnership.
  • And the most advanced level of customer expectation is advice.

Developing talent

The authors reported on research by Dr Benjamin Bloom of Northwestern University, who discovered that across diverse professions, it takes between ten and eighteen years before world-class competency is reached. So, if a company wants some employees in every role to approach world-class performance, it must find ways to encourage them to stay focuesed on devleoping their expertise.

They recommend that graded levels of achievement, for every role, is an exetremely effective way of doing this. Such an approach has traditionally been used in the professions, with a lawyer, for example, moving from junior associate, to associate, senior associate and then partner.

To do this, they recommend broad bands of pay that overlap – so that individuals are not driven to move to a different role purely to increase their salaries. With broadbanding they can consider the content of the role and weigh the match between its reponsibilities and their strengths.

The authors claim that wherever excellence is revered, you will find these graded levels of achievement. Conversely, if you cannot find them, it means that, either overtly or accidentally, the company does not value excellence in that role.

I highly recommend this book for its practical approach. It should join the list of essential management reads. Get it onto your bookshelf.

First, break all the rules First, break all the rules

4.     Tools notes: Measuring the strength of a workplace

The research used in First, break all the rules discovered that measuring the strength of a workplace can be simplified to twelve questions. We believe that these twelve questions can form the basis for an excellent 360 degree appraisal exercise.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
  12. At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

At first glance the questions seem rather straightforward. But notice the use of extreme terms . . 'best', 'every' etc. The authors were looking for questions that would discriminate between the most productive departments and the rest. They discovered that if they removed the extreme language the questions lost much of their power to discriminate as everybody was able to answer "Stongly agree".

We would very much like to hear from anyone who tries these questions.

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We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield:

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