CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 32, 27th October 2003


  1. Editorial: Helping people to know you
  2. Coaching notes: Asking clean questions (1)
  3. Facilitation: Brefi Group services

1.     Editorial: Helping people to know youRichard Winfield

Richard Winfield - editor and principal consultant

I recently moved my personal office from mid Wales, where I had been based for 28 years, to Birmingham in England?s West Midlands. Although I was born in Birmingham I have had little direct contact with the city in the recent past.

How, then, to get to know the key decision-makers and get them to recognise me?

Birmingham is a thriving city, multi-cultural, a major national centre for professional services as well as the focus of the British motor industry. It has undergone huge changes over the last decade, with an on-going development plan for the next 20 years, and 50,000 new jobs forecast by 2010. It is also at the centre of the nation's road and rail networks, with an international airport.

Clearly a good centre for an organisation development company.

It has other advantages; the concentrated city centre means that most decision-makers are based within walking distance of my office, and it has a well-organised community of professional and networking organisations.

Before opening here, I was told that if I could meet 500 people I would have met everybody who mattered.

But what about my colleagues based in London? It is too big and too spread out for such an approach.

However, if you can?t meet everyone, you can meet some. The secret is to break it down. Focus on what you can achieve, not what you can?t.

My philosophy is that you need to attend something three times before you begin to be recognised, and that once you are accepted as part of the community, then you can start to build relationships. So focus and give it time.

In many parts of the world you will find Chambers of Commerce. In the UK we have the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Management Institute. There are professional societies you could join, Women in Business or other special interest societies. There may be organisations to promote trade or relations with other countries?

Is there a business breakfast club in your area? If not, then why not start one? They are very popular here – I could have breakfast with a different group every day of the week, here.

I am not particularly gregarious, but I do like asking questions (most people don't), and I like dancing (most men don?t). What are your interests that differentiate you? You may be very tall, have red hair or wear exciting ties. Whatever it is, capitalise on it.

Here are some examples of how people have come up to me in the last ten days: -

"I enjoyed your question."
"Hello. You were at the meeting on Wednesday."
"I don?t know anyone here, may I speak to you?"
"What?s your name? You have been dancing all night."

Plus, I was spoken to by someone I had met at a previous meeting, who then introduced me to someone who came up to him – both local influencers. In the last two months I have appeared twice in the "People" page of the local paper as the photographers have recognised that I am someone to be noticed!

Meeting people is like a rolling snowball. The more you do it the more progress you will make – suddenly a quantum leap. Remember, the theory of small-world networks claims that we are all linked by a maximum of six degrees of freedom i.e. someone you know, knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone you would like to meet – anywhere in the world.

So here?s a chance to raise your profile in a global community of more than 6,000 people interested in improving corporate performance.

This week we are featuring two letters to the editor – you could be in the next issue. We have also had another offer of an article from a reader, to be published in a couple of weeks. If you have an article that you would like us to publish, or which could be broken up or edited down to be suitable in the weekly CorporateCoach, then we would be delighted to receive it.



Dear Sir,

I love your Coaching newsletter.
One small point re use of questions.
I dislike WHY questions since they put the person on the defensive.
I discourage teams and people I coach from using why. In fact, WHY questions are a not open-ended questions as they tend to shut down people as they struggle to justify their actions.
Food for thought.

Best regards,
Michael Schiavoni
Schiavoni Leadership Group

Dear Sir

Many thanks to you and your team for the invaluable insights I receive from your newsletter, virtually every week.
I am a professional cold caller / business developer who enjoys the type of work he does. A born performer, I am not afraid of the proverbial stranger and will literally sing for my supper.
Thanks in part to your influence, I have questioned my professional strengths in depth and am convinced now that I can make it on my own, even in my adoptive country (Belgium) where language and administrative challenges are a daily event.
Self coaching and building belief rather than belittlement is crucial within my definition of needs in the new economy: large companies becoming asset rich and people poor, the outsourcing trend, and more freelance entrepreneurs/homeworking etc. You provide such an outlet and I commend your approach.
Keep up the good work – I will be recommending this newsletter more in the future.....

Shaun Gisbourne

3.     Coaching notes: Asking clean questions (1)

We cannot describe in complete detail everything we mean. For example, try describing a chair. We need all our senses and our whole brain to experience a chair. Rather, we just say 'chair', 'stool' or 'armchair' and people normally understand enough.

Noam Chomsky, a leading linguistics expert, originated the concepts of Surface Structure and Deep Structure in language. Surface structure is what is said. Deep structure is the deeper meaning behind what is said. In our practical world we delete information, generalise information or distort information. So what is communicated is incomplete or inaccurate and the listener has to make assumptions about what is being said, which might be inaccurate. By recognising that these deletions, generalisations and distortions may be key to understanding, we can use precise challenging questions to reconnect the surface structure with the deep structure.

The words we use to describe experiences are not the experiences. They are just the best verbal representation we can come up with. Precise language has the ability to move people in useful directions. Sloppy language can misdirect them.

The Meta Model, developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, identifies many sub-classes of these linguistic shortcuts. A simpler approach is to focus on the five key cases: universal quantifiers, modal operators of necessity, unspecified verbs, unspecified nouns and comparative deletions. No need to remember the terms, just practice using five questions. They will help you communicate with more precision and effectiveness. They are simple verbal tools which you can use to guide you through the verbal fluff of distortion, generalisation and deletion which characterises normal communication.

Even if you think you can make a good guess as to what someone means, do not count on this guess. Remember, we all have different experiences in our memories, and these memories are what give meaning to our words. The problem is that the same words mean different experiences to different people, and herein lie many of the problems of communication.

This week we introduce unspecified nouns and the "What, specifically?" question. Next week the other four.

Unspecified nouns

They, people, things . . Ask ?Who/what (noun) specifically??


"I want a new job." "What job, specifically?"
"I saw a film." "Which film, specifically?"
"It's awful." "What, specifically, is awful?"
"I've left it behind." "What, specifically, have you left behind?"
"There's no time." "What, specifically, is there no time for?"

Now try some examples of your own.



We have overhauled our books pages to include many more books that you might find useful ? also to remove those that are now difficult to get hold of. There are now 160 books included in 21 categories, with reviews, star ratings, current Amazon prices and links to both and

If there are any particular favourites that we have omitted and you would like to recommend, please contact Brefi Group at

3.     Facilitation: Brefi Group services

A facilitated workshop enables all members to participate.

Improving the effectiveness of awaydays and strategy meetings

This is the time of year when many organisations review their strategy and prepare business plans for their next financial year. You can do this more effectively by getting away from your normal working environment and using an independent external facilitator.

A facilitator structures the proceedings and enables everyone to participate fully, helping you achieve things that could not even be considered in a normal meeting.

Brefi Group has a team of experienced facilitators based in Birmingham, London and the South East who can facilitate: -

  • strategy meetings
  • business planning
  • budget preparation
  • corporate retreats
  • awaydays
  • vision, mission, values elicitation
  • team building
  • scenario planning workshops

You may be confident that our consultants will explore and agree your objectives and outcomes with you in advance and that they are flexible and responsive enough to deal with whatever arises during the event itself.

Your next group meeting could be less stress, more effective and more fun.

For individual or corporate change, contact us by e-mail or call 0870 0678 222.