A star in the making?

I was working with a couple of colleagues a week or so ago with some Junior Doctors from a hospital. They were addressing issues around communication and was it clear and unambiguous. It is work that I have been doing for the last 5 years or so.

This year, the lady who organises the event brought along a film crew. I thought that they were there only to film the Junior Doctors. They, fairly naturally, asked about what we do and why, so I explained. Then they said they wanted to film me saying all of what I had just said. I was immediately reminded of a sketch Jasper Carrot did many years ago which featured the line ‘bicycle clips job’! Despite me professing my reluctance to do so they would have none of it, so I have, very briefly, become a film star!

The little film has been added to my web site so take a look and check it out. Nervous or what!

On a more serious note about the work we do with the Doctors, my contact at the hospital believes that they are the ONLY hospital engaging in experiential learning as a means of attempting to develop the individuals into more rounded people. Some of the messages which Junior Doctors need to give out to patients or, indeed, to their more senior staff will not be easy to deliver or easy to hear. The better able they are to understand how they are as individuals, how they come across in conversation and the impact that they have in conversations is fundamental.

Check out the web site dha-management.co.uk

More to follow soon.

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An interesting story about the consequences of the recession

doorway

Looking at doorway

I was trawling through some back copies of newspapers and came across the following:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/recession/10230982/Count-the-ways-the-credit-crunch-changed-our-lives.html

It strikes me as being interesting because some of what is contained in the article is EXACTLY what we have done as a family!

We shop at £1 shops and ALDI supermarket
We have an eldest daughter living back at home
We have all bought new pajamas and sit watching films on DVD instead of going to the cinema.
Friday night is a night in watching TV instead of popping down to the local.

Interesting stuff

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Investing in staff development pays a brilliant return

Fremington We were working with a company based down on the outskirts of London and were staying in a hotel nearby. I was discussing some of the finer details of the programme with one of the newly appointed managers. She had only been in post about 3 weeks at this point. Somewhat inevitably, we were discussing some of the challenges which she knew would lie ahead of her. She was also thinking about some of the new initiatives that she wished to see introduced.

She then went on to say, that in the 15 or so years that she had been at work, this job was the first one which placed so great an emphasis on her really developing herself. She was saying that of the 3 weeks she had been at the company so far, she had only spent about 3 days actually doing her ‘proper’ job. The rest of that time she had been attending courses to develop her skills, make her a more rounded individual and broaden her understanding of the business. Clearly she was not going to be working in exactly the same way going forwards, spending only 20% of her time doing her ‘proper’ job, but she was welcoming the opportunity provided by her new employer to develop herself. I find it all quite interesting. Compare that with some work I was doing recently with an organisation where the main man was very likeable, but incompetent at his job. He was only interested in getting the job done. All his conversations with his staff were around those issues. He was not interested in how his staff were doing at a personal level, he had little interest in the issues which they may very well have at home, or in more social settings. A lady had recently joined his team, and was aghast at how little opportunity there was to develop herself.

gate at lanty's tarn

We worked with these guys for only 1 day (not my preferred way of doing things but what was requested!) and the frustrations in the team were very evident, as was the managers way of ensuring the did not rise above an ‘acceptable’ level, as he saw it.

Investing in the development of individuals is ALWAYS a wise decision.

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Interesting aspects of personal behaviour ‘leaking out’!

I do fiimg030nd it interesting that various aspects of individuals personal behaviour ‘leak out’ of them at unusual times.

We were working with a group of engineers who were 2 halves of the same team. One half of the team worked ‘over here’ and the other half worked ‘over there’. They rarely met up, although their bosses did meet frequently. The team leader of the ‘over here’ group had been identified as someone who needed some help with his interpersonal style. Indeed, on reflection, it was felt that the entire team would benefit from a little work.

We ran a short programme and number of issues were identified that the team needed to work on. They agreed, at the end of the programme, as to who was going to drive which piece of the jigsaw back at work, whom they might enlist to assist, when they would have it done by and the like.

We then met up with these guys about 6 weeks after the event to run a follow up workshop and stay overnight. At the dinner that evening i was talking with a chap who had clearly been reflecting upon what he had learnt during the programme we ran, but also what he had observed in others. He was speaking about the team leader who had recently announced that he was moving on from the business. He was saying that a lot of what he had spotted the team leader doing during the programme we had ran, was actually the same as the way in which he had seen him play sport.

During the programme we ran this guy had been aware that the team leader tended to keep information to himself. He did not try to include others in his decison making, he chose who he would involve and who he would leave out. He was not good at making use of others, who might just have a better view of the issue to him, or who might actually be in a better ;position to do something.

The chap I was talking with was able to relate all of this to the way he had seen the team leader play a game of hockey! Not all that long before we had ran the programme, the works social club had arranged a hockey tour. The team leader had signed up for it, having played in his days at University. All the ‘unhelpful’ behaviours the team leader had shown during the programme with us, were exactly the same as he had shown on the hockey tour. When he had the ball, he wanted to hang onto it, he wanted to have a profile and presence with the ball. As a player, he failed to look around him to see if others were in a better position to receive the ball and make better use of it. He was unaware that others in the team were in a much better position to, say, strike for goal, or were better able to make a constructive pass to a player who could strike for goal

So frustrated did the players in the hockey team become, that, on their return from tour, they said they would never invite then team leader ever again. Or, if he insisted on going, then they would not! This was clearly an unhappy team, but then, so too, were the team we had been working with.

A couple of things struck me about all of this. One was the fact that talking sport img031with the team leader might well have given one of his team an ‘easy in’ to a more challenging conversation about the leaders personal behaviour and the consequences both for the leader and for others. The other issue quite simply,was why did no one say anything to this chap about simple things like ‘pass the ball’!

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I say old chap, you are a darned good egg . . . . .

gable and wastwaterI was working at an outdoor centre in the early 1980’s and we had a group in from a School of Management. This group were part way through a 6 week development programme and would have had experience of working together at the Management School before they arrived at the centre. The talk among the senior staff was that a newly appointed Professor was due to arrive to see quite what the managers got up whilst they were staying at the centre.

The new Professor, George, arrived during the afternoon and was in time to join in with the group as they went out on a night exercise. We arranged to pop George in at the later stages of the exercise, where he would await in an old logging hut in the forest, where the managers would meet up during the latter stages of the exercise. So that was what happened, and George found the conversations between the various groups quite fascinating, and was intrigued by how the groups split up as they prepared their meals around their stoves.

Late on the following morning we assembled and started a review of the evenings task. George sat in, as a colleague of mine and myself tried to get the managers to pull some learning out of what had been happening during the previous evening. We were not particularly sophisticated in what we did, nor in the questions we were asking. An awfully pleasant, very plummy voiced, chap was giving his version of how he had experienced the latter stages of the task. His view was that the guys in the other groups had all come over to ask how he and his colleagues had experienced the task and what aspects they had found challenging, as the groups had all arrived at the logging hut by slightly different routes. He was just saying ‘All you awfully nice chaps all came over to talk to us and you all seemed to be darned good eggs, and we told you our stories and you happily went on your way . . . ‘.

I was aware that one of the managers seemed to becoming agitated by the chap who was speaking. Eventually he was unable to contain himself and he jumped up out of his seat, stormed across the centre of the circle in which we were all sitting, andstood in front of this chap. In a very strong Glaswegian accent he sought to deny the plummy voiced gentlemans account of what had happened, and was quite specific about why he was saying that. Indeed, he went so far as to suggest that this chap was ‘a complete waste of space’ and had been ever since he had first met the chap back down at the management school.  He went on for a little while, but eventually he had said all that he needed to and returned to his seat. I recall looking to my colleague, and my colleague looking to me, as the pair of us thought of something to say which might be helpful to the group.

At this point George leant forwards and asked if it was alright for him to contribute to the discussion. With a hint of relief, the pair of us said that of course it was. So George started, by asking the plummy voiced chap if he had any idea why the guy from Glasgow had said all those things to him. He admitted that he had no idea at all, and so asked the chap from Glasgow quite why he had said everything that he had. And so started a marvellous exchange of feedback across all the members of the group. During the following 3 hours or so they all received feedback about their performance during the night exercise. The majority of them then said 2 things. Firstly, that it was characteristic of how they were when they were at work. The second thing was that they had actually heard it all before, because their partners had all been trying to tell them those things for a number of years!

The interesting post script to this exchange was that George had actually arrived with the intention of closing the programme down as he did not see it as being relevant to modern group in conversationmanagers. However, on reflection, he was going to return to the management school and promote the idea that MORE groups needed to come away in order to learn about their behaviour.

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When not saying what needs to be said . . . .

Full MoonOver the last 30 odd years that I have been running development programmes I have often thought that a ‘night exercise’ is one of the most powerful ways to help embed learning. These days the idea of getting managers to walk around the local area at 3.00 a.m. is not well thought of, but I know that it has been a very successful way to get people to understand the impact and consequences of their actions.

We were running a night exercise up through some forestry here in the Lake District. It was really quite a simple task, but made more challenging by the darkness and the fact that torch-light does not illuminate everything you wish to look at.

This particular group were making there way up through the forest on a path running beside a river. Information had been left for the team at a culvert which carried the river beneath a roadway. The team leader was a chap called ‘George’. He had already had a profile during the programme we were running and was known to struggle in managing stressful situations. He was someone who liked to ‘get the job done’ and was prone to be very sharp with individuals who were not measuring up to his standards – as he saw it. George’s right hand man was a guy called ‘Fred’ and he was really keen to  keep George on track and not allow him to become stressed. Something he had been doing quite well for most of the night exercise.

They arrive at the culvert and quickly search for the clue. They find nothing so Fred makes a search of the culvert under the road. The culvert is a length of smooth pipe and nothing can be hidden in it. Fred comes out and reports his findings. The team therefore make a more detailed search of the culvert entrance, and still find nothing. In George’s head time is slipping away and he is starting to feel under pressure. The remainder of the team are looking to him for direction and he is starting to struggle. He asks Fred to look inside the culvert again. So Fred runs up and down the culvert a second time and comes back out to report that there is still nothing in there. George is running out of ideas. He gathers the team together to give them an update. In his head the task can not be done, the team have been ‘stitched up’ and it has all been a waste of time. By this point they have been at the culvert for about 40 minutes or so. They turn to me and start to ask me for help, information and ideas. I shrug my shoulders – it is their task to manage and I know that it is perfectly achievable. Fred runs up and down the culvert for a 3rd time. The rest of the team slowly fan out in a more structured manner. Suddenly, the torch-light come to rest on a large plastic envelope, and in that envelope is the information the team need. They quickly read it and start to progress up the route. Fred moves slowly as his boots are full of water after being through the culvert 3 times!

I was intrigued by a number of aspects to this particular interplay. Why did Fred run up and down the culvert so many times when he knew that there was nothing in it having been down there once? Was George’s belief that the task was not achievable a characteristic response to dealing with difficult issues back at work? What were the rest of the team doing whilst George and Fred were under so much pressure? Why did they just stand by and allow themselves to do nothing constructive?

We spent quite some time reviewing the task later on that day back at the hotel, and Forestmanaged to get answers to most of those questions.

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A little walk in Chitwan

JungleMy wife and 2 daughters were with me in Nepal, and we had travelled down to Chitwan on the border with India to see some of the wildlife. We had taken a dug out canoe trip down the river and had been impressed by the wide variety of wild birds that we had spotted all feeding along the river. Having put ashore we were then trekking through the jungle to see what other animals we could observe. Our guide lead us, slowly and carefully, to a group of trees in which a  rhinoceros was chomping grass. Suddenly the rhino stopped eating the grass and was taking an unhealthy interest in a couple of loud-voiced women who were also approaching it. Clearly the animal was disturbed by all of this, and given that it has very poor eyesight, it must have caught scent of someone, as it decided to charge forwards. I was very unsure of where it was heading so we all ran in a direction that took us away from where the animal had been. We all demonstrated a nimbleness of foot and were all fine. If the rhino did in fact chase after us I never found out – although I know I did not run for very far and it was not on our heels when we all stopped!

It was as we were walking away from all of this with our pride still intact that we went past the loud-voiced women. They were still talking to their guide with that high-pitched sound that travels such a long way. They were saying that they were unsettled by the rhino and what they had seen it doing. I could not help but speculate that they too had run from the beast, and that the animal was actually more interested in them than it had been in us. In summary the 2 ladies were saying that they wished to leave the jungle at that instant. Further, there was absolutely no way that they wished to see, or encounter any other wild animals.

The whole exchange with their guide intrigued me. The notion that they had trekked into the jungle seemed to have escaped them. If they walked into the jungle then the obvious way to get out would also be to walk. Helicopters were very few and far away – not, I suspect, that they would have been interested in lifting out our 2 ladies – even if they could locate them in the jungle. If they did walk there was a small chance that they might also encounter further wild animals. They would be able to reduce the likelihood of that happening by making a lot of noise (pretty much as they had been doing having the conversation with their guide!).

I am pretty sure that the 2 women would have had the trip explained in pretty much the same way as we had and the obvious risk would have been White Rhino & Calfpointed out to them. I found it interesting, that when the encountered risk they then sought to remove the risk entirely – not attempt to manage it in a way which would be better for them.

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A tale of 2 fishes . . . .

2 fishes

Two fish on a plate

I was a student in Manchester a few years ago and was invited round to the house of a stunning young lady. Charlotte and I had spent many a happy hour walking over the hills of Derbyshire, Wales and the Lake District and we had often talked about meeting up for a meal.

When I popped around to see her she had bought 2 trout for tea and had prepared the fish by removing their heads and tails and popping them into quite a large pan. I was quite curious by this approach, as, on a previous occasion that I had eaten trout I had the entire fish and had to remove the head myself.

I expressed my curiosity and asked about the removal of the head and tail. The response was a little predictable, in that it was how her mother prepared fish! However, Charlotte said she would ask her mother the next time she was on the telephone with her. And so she did, to be told that her mother didn’t know as it was something her grandmother had always done, but that she, in turn, would ask her grandmother when she next saw her.

So, it was some little while before I found out the reason that the fish had had their heads removed, when mother had consulted grandmother, and in turn had updated her own daughter. The reason her grandmother gave for removing the fish heads and tails? So that they would fit into the pan that went into the oven, as it was and old pan and not that large!

Now, in my head there are enormous similarities between the tale of the two fishes, and how a business develops unhelpful habits. A habit starts in the business and it becomes the ‘way things are done’ and is then perpetuated for a long period of time. Eventually, the business does things in a certain way and the original reason why has been long forgotten. A few years ago i was working with a group that ran IT. The IT department had started out as a very small department and at that time, was responsible for the purchase of the small number of new computers. With the passage of time that situation had persisted, except that now everyone in the business had a lap top computer and the department’s budget was running away with itself. No one had ever thought to look at what the department was spending money on!laptop

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Aligning their passion with the business

Buttermere croppedWe were working with a business based down in the south of England. Their main office was in London, but they also had offices out near Reading and up near Stevenage. We had been brought in to  help this company to manage its budgets in a better fashion. We talked with the Managing Director and also his Finance Director.

On the back of this we made a recommendation that we needed to run a short series of ‘Energise’ programmes. These programmes looked at where the business currently was. They talked about the fact they existed as 3 separate offices. They discussed the fact that they never shared information. They dwelt on the fact that they nearly always viewed a telephone call from another office as a complication. It just needed to be ‘got out of the way’. They reluctantly admitted that they were in competition across the 3 sites.

We then gave them a simple teamwork development task to do. They were presented with the task of all working for the same organisation, and divided into 3 teams. The 3 teams started to compete as the task unfolded. This was interesting, to me, as they were all working for the same organisation. Indeed, in addition there was only 1 ‘murder’ to solve, not three.

When we reviewed the task later on, some of the group were horrified that they had taken a task modelled on the way they worked in the office and had managed it is exactly the same way as they would if they had been at work. They are adamant that such things could not happen in the future.

It was interesting to discuss how the team were with my client some weeks after the programme ran. She was staggered that over one weekend a group of 4 of the guys who had been on the programme had got together with a group from the Reading office to address a number of work related issues. They had arranged all of this, in their spare time, without any recourse to her, without seeking funding or overtime payments, without submitting travel claims or costs. Not only that, but the guys who had worked on these issues had worked 2 very long days, returned to London late on the Sunday evening and had been back in the office bright-eyed on the Monday morning.

There are enormous benefits that can derive from getting the personal goals and aBaxter imagembitions to align with the business. We took these guys off site for 1 night. The cost to the business was almost negligible. The returns to the business were beyond belief.

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When the ‘Old Guard’ realise it is time to leave the organisation

lakes2

The lake late on in a summers day.

A colleague of mine had been appointed as an interim manager with an organisation down in London. She was in post to look at the budget of her department and reduce it’s spend to more appropriate levels. She had a senior IT head of department, who had been in post for a good number of decades (!) and was, essentially, biding his time until he could take his retirement. He had arrived into the organisation with the early computers – and was still there. Most enquiries to him were met with bland responses such as ‘Well the last time we tried that . . . . it didn’t work’ and so on.

We took the group away, up to the Lake District and presented them with a task which they needed to complete in the outdoors. There is no ‘rocket science’ involved with this. Quite simply, participants will implement systems and personal strategies when working in the new environment of the outdoors which mirror their behaviour tackling a new challenge back at work.

Coaching each other to secure the knots

Coaching each other to secure the knots

The task we gave them was a ‘Self Programmed Abseil’. As tutors we kept a watchful eye on the participants and would not allow them to do anything that did not conform to the briefing they had been given. They got the ropes set up and safely anchored and the Head of IT stepped forwards to abseil. He got into position but was overawed by the scale of the abseil. It was about 45m from the top down to the ground. He was nervous as he started and slipped and his weight came onto the safety rope. He was perfectly safe, but he was now hanging head to the ground, which was some way below him. We quickly got him sorted out and back onto the start of the abseil. He was quite shaken by the experience, and decided that he would sit out the abseil for a little while. He was very quiet during this period and, indeed, did not seek to abseil again.

A few days after this incident, back down in the companies offices in London, he asked to see my colleague, the interim manager. He was very open and up front with her. He had been thinking about the entire incident. It had struck him that he was now an older chap, and he had realised that being in the IT department was a young mans game. All of that had struck him as he was suspended head first off the top of the abseil. It had taken him a few days to get his head around it all, but he needed to retire and take some time to think about what he was going to do going forwards.

Learning how to tie knots 'in the field'.

Learning how to tie knots ‘in the field’.

It was almost Christmas, so my colleague made all of the arrangements for this chap to take retirement and did so in a professional manner. He and his colleagues held a leaving party for him at the offices. He was then invited back to the Christmas Party a number of weeks later and was made very welcome by his former colleagues who were all interested in what he was looking at doing in the future.

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