Archive for June, 2010

Methods of motivation

Monday, June 28th, 2010

“Oh, I’m just so in love with my new manager!”, said my daughter as I collected her from the bus stop. Worthy of further exploration, I thought … “That sounds good – what exactly do you love about them?”, I replied. “Oh, she’s just so nice. She actually says ‘thank you’ when you’ve done a good job, she helps you when you need it and asks us what we think about things. I just love her!”

My daughter has just returned home from University at the end of her first year, has returned to her part time job as a barista in a famous coffee shop and has found a different manager in place. A good start to the summer!

Later that day, I went on an HR Forum and saw a post from a person wrestling with how to retain staff. Their proposal was, “to include a clause in the job offer and/or terms and conditions which requires the person to have removed their CV from web sites and agencies for a minimum period of say 6 or 12 months”. They thought that by doing this, they would potentially increase their staff retention and reduce turnover. Perhaps it would.

It reminded me of McGregor’s X & Y Theory and the Psychological Contract. Douglas McGregor proposed, in 1960, 2 types of managers. Broadly speaking, the ‘Theory X’ manager assumes that employees are lazy, need to be closely supervised and comprehensive control systems are required. The ‘Theory Y’ manager assumes that employees are ambitious, enjoy work and are more productive if given the freedom to shine. This led to an over-simplistic perception that ‘Theory Y’ managers were the good people and ‘Theory X’ managers were the bad people.

Spookily perhaps, the Psychological Contract was also introduced in 1960, by Chris Argyris. In 1989, Denise Rousseau defined the Psychological Contract as, “the beliefs individuals hold regarding the terms and conditions of the exchange agreement between themselves and their organisations”. In other words, what they believe they owe the organisation and what the organisation owes them.

The Psychological Contract kept a low profile during the 70’s and 80’s, and only really came back to prominence in the 1990s as a result of the economic downturn which led to mergers, restructures and down-sizing. What followed were changes in how staff viewed and felt towards their employers. And according to Inge Van den Brande, the Psychological Contract helped explain those changes, and therefore its profile was raised.

As we find ourselves in the next economic downturn on from the one in the 1990s, it is worth reflecting on both these models. From a personal perspective, are you a Theory X or Theory Y manager (or member of staff)? Will your organisation need you to adapt your preferred Theory as the financial crisis bites, and if so, how will you handle this? And will you need to amend your Psychological Contract with your organisation or your staff?

I think the answers to these questions will be key to the level of enjoyment people can anticipate from their work roles. Furthermore, some managers will need to develop specific new skills and behaviours – which they should be addressing now – in order to be effective within their environments.

Go down to your local coffee shop and think about it over a coffee or a frappucchino – and you might even witness a very happy ‘Theory Y’ member of staff.


Is ‘e hurt, man?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Well, it certainly looked like he was hurting to me. He looked like he could hardly stand up, never mind play tennis. I’m referring to John Isner the American tennis player, one half of the record breaking duo (the other being France’s Nicolas Mahut) whose final set at Wimbledon yesterday went to 59-59 in games before bad light forced a break in proceedings. And it has already broken so many records – longest match ever (10 hours) most aces in a match (193) – and there are more, but I’ll stop there.  All those record breaking outputs, but they will lead to only one outcome (hopefully later today) which will be one of them winning the match. And that is what will be recorded in the competition.

As a trainer, I know that I have been too interested in outputs in the past, and I now see trainers who are too focussed on them. I understand that it can be difficult to see beyond the session or course itself as we care passionately about what we do and get very involved in it. I know it’s great to come up with an inspirational methodology, a role play that explores the affective domain or a great set of PowerPoint slides. But these are all outputs. We need to focus on the outcome. By increasing our focus on the outcome, the methodology becomes more meaningful and business orientated.

When one of the players was interviewed when leaving the court yesterday evening he said, “I’ll be interested to see the stats.” Again, as trainers, we are interested in “the stats” we usually get at the conclusion of any session or course – normally provided through some sort of evaluation questionnaire. We need to move beyond this, too.

What we should really be interested in is our delegates’ (and their managers) responses to the statement, “As a result of this learning event, I have (they have) improved my (their) performance within the workplace.” Followed by, “This is evidenced by …”. If this question is posed to delegates 3 months after the event, I would expect effective delivery to achieve at least 85% agreeing with this statement. Anything less and there are potentially issues with the event, the people being nominated for it or the post-event support delegates are receiving in the workplace. That is a true outcome, one which is meaningful to the organisation and one which enables the trainer to really demonstrate their worth. It also starts the process of examining and quantifying the return on the investment for the event (ROI).  Essential in the current economic climate.

How can you make your events or your trainers’ events more outcome focussed? What can managers do to ensure that their events are delivering meaningful outcomes? I’d be interested in your views – or the views of delegates.

Oh, and the title of this post? It’s an anagram of the two players’ names. Well, you have to find something to do when watching a 118 game final set of a tennis match …


From a jumble of words to a meaningful question …

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I have been coaching a number of CIPD candidates recently as they prepare to undertake their exams. Understandably, they have varying degrees of trepidation as the exam date approaches. What is less understandable is the level of support they are given by their providers as to how to deal with exam questions. It appears to be non-existent for some of them.

Doing an exam can be a bit like taking a penalty in a football or hockey match when success depends on scoring – nothing is quite like the real thing, but practicing and having a structure, technique or model to use can give you the best chance of success.

One person described to me how when they started to read the questions, they looked difficult and as a result, “just became a jumble of words making no sense”. Not a useful state when tacking an exam. Having a structure can help a person to maintain a cognitive approach whilst they are experiencing all sorts of unhelpful emotions. And so the words start to make sense again.

To help individuals in this situation, I have created a number of questions designed to guide them through each exam question and enable them to answer them as effectively as possible. I’d be interested to hear from others as to whether they work, or whether I’m missing anything. Or do they need tweaking?

1. What is the question asking me to do / what is the product?

2. What is the subject?

3. Who is the audience?

4. What do I know about the subject (relative to the audience)? (this is where you board blast / brainstorm as many different ideas as possible – don’t judge any of them, just create ideas – however seeming useful / useless / alternative at this stage) 

5. What are the important parts from Q5 to include in my answer?

6. In what structure will I present this information?

Let me know what you think – I will be grateful for any feedback.


Henin, Herge or Merckx?

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Or even Plastic Bertrand. Or perhaps someone else is the most famous Belgian ever. It is a question that is sometimes discussed when the subject of Belgium comes up, and if it is of particular interest to you, you can see all the possible candidates at I don’t know where this question originates from – possibly the French as they generally don’t have a lot of time for the Belgians – however, the nominations for possible recipients of the title may soon close – for ever. Last week’s elections in Belgium were widely seen as possibly the beginning of the end of Belgium as a country.

The New Flemish Party, led by Bart De Wever, gained 27 seats, up from 6 in 2007. He hopes that the country will “gradually evaporate” and that Flanders will part from Wallonia.

The main problem for Belgium is that it speaks two languages – Dutch in the northern Flanders region and French in the southern Wallonia – and that has stopped it from becoming integrated. I undertook some diversity work with the Belgian police service in the mid 1990s, and I was amazed to see that when they trained their trainers, they had two separate courses, run by two separate groups of people – working from separate rooms in the same building. There was little or no interaction between each group of trainers. I really struggled with this lack of harmony and efficiency, but they didn’t see it as an issue. Perhaps I was ahead of my time – but I don’t think so. It‘s just that it is so much easier to see things objectively when you are outside than when you are inside or part of the culture.

I was discussing this on Friday with one of my coachees who starts a new job tomorrow – and the value that this objectivity can bring to an organisation. I always used to meet with new staff when they had been with us for six weeks as they were not yet part of the culture. They were able to make some really great observations about ways of working that were effective or ineffective. Once they had been with us for three months the moment had passed …

When I had those discussions with the Belgian police officers, they were very open about their country being a “cosmetic” country, which takes me back to the original question about famous Belgians. Teams and organisations – and individuals within them – will achieve greater things when united and focussed rather than divided. If the country does separate, will there be more famous Wallonians and Flemish than there were Belgians? Does this lack of cohesiveness and sense of being for Belgians lead to unfulfilled potential?


Nothing to do with football, a lot to do with sport

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

A few weeks ago, I was the facilitator for a really interesting international meeting of national anti-doping organisations. There were many interesting individuals there – one in particular was John Fahey, the President of the World Anti Doping Agency. A man who was born in New Zealand and became a naturalised Australian, was a good class player and coach, is an ex-Premier of New South Wales and Australian Finance Minister, thwarted an assassination attempt on Prince Charles and led Sydney’s successful bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games.

During the evening between the two days I had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with him. With his long connection with sport, and knowing that he had attended so many top events, I was interested to know whether he could pick out one event that stood out above the rest as the most memorable he had attended.

He was able to pick two out. The first was a netball match between Australia and New Zealand that ended 55-54 to Australia. At least I think he said that was the score – it was definitely in the 50s and there was only one point in it at the final whistle. This stuck in John’s mind due to the nationalities of the teams taking part, and the tension right from the start due to the lead alternating throughout the game.

The second event was the Paralympic Long Jump event. The recognition of the trust between the athlete and the coach had a particular emotional attachment for John. He described how the coach clapped from one side of the landing area and the long jumper, who was blind, set off running and then jumped … the jumper placing all their trust in the coach’s clapping to make sure they landed in the sand.

Two things struck me from what John said. Firstly, I was (wrongly) expecting him to mention an event or events that were more high profile than those he recalled – but I suppose it is like life itself, in that the moments that are of perhaps most significance and enjoyment are not those planned occasions but those that we come across almost by accident.

Secondly, I reflected on the coach and coachee relationship. For me, one of the foundation stones of such a relationship is trust, and John’s example so clearly highlighted its importance in a way that most of us would never experience. And then I wondered whether I as a coach always appreciate how difficult it can be for the coachee to undertake their chosen actions on occasions, and whether I can support them more effectively?


Self belief in the palms of your hands

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

One of the few quotes that I can remember (and still think of in certain situations) from studying English Literature at school is from “The Rivals” by R. B. Sheridan. From my hazy recollection, it occurs in the run up to a duel and Acres, the farm hand, says, “My valour is certainly going! – it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were at the palms of my hands!” Quite brilliant. I can smile now as I recall having on such occasions actually looked at my hands to see if I can see it oozing out! But if you don’t have that self belief, can you ever feel it deserting you? 

I received a lovely email from a person a couple of days ago.  I happened to see a post from her on the CIPD website and she seemed to be struggling in preparing for an exam. I offered to help, she accepted, and we had a number of telephone coaching sessions – on a no payment basis – leading up to her exam. I have never met her before and it may well be that we don’t communicate again.

She wrote, “I really wanted to thank you again for all your help. I don’t find very often in life that people are prepared to give up so much time and effort to help a stranger, and I really appreciate it. As I said before I believe it made a vital difference in allowing me to believe in myself a bit, and even if I don’t pass the exam, I at least feel that I did everything I could at that point.”

Two reasons for sharing this. Firstly, it is a great example of what I was trying to explain I wanted this blog to be all about in my last post – this will possibly make it clearer to you! The second aspect relates to confidence. It never ceases to amaze me just how many very capable people need that little bit of support and encouragement to start believing in themselves. And once they do, things just seem to start happening for them …

I was out coaching a person yesterday, and the person I was with also falls into this category. Someone who gets very little praise at work yet who has so many positive qualities. Working very hard, but no one is encouraging her development. Her company is not getting the best out of her. She is not as motivated as she could be.

There is a great site at that has all sort of tools and ideas for so many different development situations. If you think you could benefit from believing in yourself a little more, or if you are just interested in different ideas, have a look at what it has to offer at .


A point to share

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

According to Liam Byrne, when he and his colleagues left government there was no money left. All gone. Over the coming weeks I’m sure we will find out how the Government is going to re-fill its jam jars and piggy banks. And I’m sure it will impact on us as individuals and within our workplaces. Lots of us will be looking to cut costs. Here are a couple of ideas that may assist you in saving money at work (or ‘generating efficiency savings’ if you work in Finance).

If you are a CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) member, do you ever use the Communities Forum? If you’re not a CIPD member and don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s an area on the CIPD website where you can pose questions or ‘discuss’ issues with other CIPD members. I suppose it’s like the ‘’ forums, but for HR matters. There are some fantastic discussions (or ‘threads’ as they are correctly called) and they generate so many different ideas – and it’s all free. Well, free if you have paid your annual subscriptions.

I know that lots of non-CIPD members would also find that facility very useful – and that the majority of delegates I have trained are not CIPD members. So if you’ve got a development type question, post it on the blog or send it to me in an email, and we’ll see if people can contribute suggested ideas or actions, and get some discussion going – and here it really will be free!

The theme of sharing is one that I want to have running throughout this blog, and so (in addition to my thoughts) I will also be sharing material that I create and which may be of value to others. Sticking with the cost saving theme, my first practical offering is a Learning and Development Costing Model.

About 10 years ago, I was looking for something that would help me quickly and accurately calculate how much it would cost to train a group of people. I wanted this for when I was in meetings and other senior managers were deciding on a whim to suggest giving 3,000 people one day’s training – with no thought for the cost. I particularly wanted the ‘lost opportunity cost’ including – in other words, the cost to the organisation of the delegate not undertaking their usual work whilst undertaking the training.  I couldn’t find anything, so I created my own. I know that a few other training managers now use it, and they find it useful, so others might too. And I have now added comments to explain how to use it.

I wish I could attach it here, but my WordPress learning for today has been that you can’t uplaod MS Excel! – ansd it’s in Excel so that it does all the calculations for you. However, if you would like a copy, please drop me an email or reply here and I’ll gladly pass it on. 

What other free resources would you find useful?


Great Railway Stations of the World

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Outside the UK, I find travelling by rail so much more enjoyable than by air. Yes, it’s slower, but it’s exciting, refreshing, romantic and so many other things. The main pleasure for me is the stations themselves – often towns within cities, sometimes cathedrals of their time and built recently enough to have a place in the modern world yet old enough to remind us of another era.

Take New York’s Grand Central Terminal. For starters, what a name – so much more appealling than Birmingham New Street or Wakefield Westgate!  The largest station in the world, marble everywhere, complete with a barrel-vaulted ceiling containing 2,500 stars, a Whispering Gallery and 22 restaurants.

Times have changed since Lauren Bacall – in her wonderful autobiography, “By Myself and Then Some” – describes how she left New York by train as a young actress to go to Los Angeles (and then meet and marry Dirk Bogarde ….). Three days on the train to get to Los Angeles – “The station was large, but nothing like Grand Central”, she writes. But no station is. It now  serves only the northern suburbs and Connecticut, but it still has a magical feel to it. I’m lucky to have been to it a couple of times, and if I ever go back to New York, Grand Central Terminal (along with the Brooklyn Bridge) are the two places I would always go back to.

Closer to home there are still stations that do offer that opportunity to get on a train and arrive the next day in another capital city. When I stand it a Parisian Station and see all the exciting places I could get to by jumping on one of the trains that are standing there, I get a shiver of excitement. A couple of times I have used European overnight sleeper trains and whilst they can seem like they are verging on Dickensian in their facilities, I don’t care – it is just such an evocative way to travel!

And so unlike the Eurostar experience. Generally efficient, but not a lot of fun. I feel like I am being herded, as at an airport. I can feel my enthusiasms for all things trains oozing out of the palms of my hands as I think about Eurostar, so enough of that.

Even closer to home we have the London Underground. I always enjoy going on the Underground as it reminds me of visits to London as a child, but I’m aware that people living in London may have a different take on it! I visited the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden earlier this month and was really surprised to see how many underground stations had closed over the years. For some reason I only thought that had happened with over ground trains.

And I see blogs being like railway stations. Virtual stations for the 21st century. People come and go – some people are regulars, some people visit occasionally. Some have a real hustle and bustle about them, others are less frequented. Some grow in size and are updated, others fall into disrepair and are closed. Some have a real ‘wow’ factor to them, others … well, others just don’t.

So what’s your favourite railway station and why?