Archive for January, 2011

Sky Sports caught Offside?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

What a furore – and all because someone of a different gender was carrying a flag and being an assistant referee at a Premiership football match at the weekend. And, it should be noted, doing it very effectively.

For anyone who lives outside the UK, perhaps a little background would be helpful. It doesn’t happen very often that a woman acts as an assistant referee in England’s top flight football League – but it did last Saturday.  During Sky Sports’ coverage, two presenters – Andy Gray and Richard Keys – were recorded making comments about the capability of the assistant referee to understand the Offside rule based purely on her gender. Further recordings then came to light with Andy Gray and another reporter discussing her physical appearance, and then a historical (December 2010) video recording of Andy Gray apparently asking a female co-presented to help position his microphone near the front of the top of his trousers. There have been various suspensions, and then yesterday Andy Gray had his contract terminated by Sky Sports, “in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour”.

The suspension was announced late yesterday afternoon. I was interested to see how the Sky channels would report it. At 5 o’clock on Sky News it was one of the lead stories together with the UK’s quarterly economic growth (or lack of), Lord Taylor being found guilty of false accounting and the truly tragic death of 4 children in a house fire in Derbyshire. At 5 o’clock on Sky Sports the lead stories were Blackpool playing Manchester United and Arsenal playing Ipswich Town later in the evening. There was a note in the written updates at the bottom of the screen (amongst many others) mentioning Mr Gray’s contract termination. Markedly different prioritisations.

Andy Gray will be missed as a football summariser as he really is one of – if not the – best on TV. But I don’t have any great sympathy for him – other than not supporting the idea of a ‘warning’ and then sacking him for something that had happened a month before the warning, because he had already had the warning. What he said and did was stupid, wrong, unacceptable and sexist.  But I do think he looks like a bit of a scapegoat.

The internet, news programmes and papers are now awash with people talking about whether this indicates that football is (still) sexist, and producing statistics such as to the number of women attending football matches. But I think this misses the point.

The real point is whether Sky Sports is institutionally sexist.  Ok, Andy Gray has been dismissed and two other presenters have been suspended and warned. But what about the camera people, the sound recordists, the editors, the producers? Many of them must have seen and heard these exchanges. What did they do about them? If it is nothing, then surely they are as responsible as the reporters – perhaps moreso if in positions of authority.  Have any of them been disciplined?

None of these incidents took place ‘on air’ so someone has made them public. I presume, therefore, that someone found them unacceptable yet perhaps felt that they could not address the matter internally? A very good indication of institutional sexism.  

And then Sky Sports didn’t see Andy Gray’s dismissal as a very important story – less important than two football matches that had been planned for several weeks. Yet Sky News viewed it on a par with a member of the House of Lords being found guilty of a crime and evidence that the UK’s quarterly economic growth was lower than expected. More evidence of institutional sexism?

Managers have a responsibility to address such behaviour when it happens – it’s sometimes referred to as ‘nipping it in the bud’. On the face of it, it appears that managers at Sky Sports may not have been exercising that responsibility effectively.

If this doesn’t happen, people of affected groups can start to feel marginalised (see my post on Allport’s Scale) and not part of the team. And if it is at a place where recording takes place most of the time, it can be relatively easy to make the evidence available in the public domain. And then the sky’s the limit ….


50 Not Out

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Well, this is my fiftieth post on my blog (I haven’t been counting, honestly, there is a counter that tells me!)  As one of the key skills I seek to help others develop is that of accurate and objective self-reflection, I thought I should reflect on my blogging experience thus far.

How many blogs in the world are there? Having been to various events over the past 12 months and heard numerous figures quoted with apparent authority (but little real evidence), I’m not sure that anyone knows. Somewhere between 100 and 150 million appears to be as accurate as it is possible to make it. I have also heard that 100,000 new ones start every day, and also that two are created every second (which equates to 172,800 each day).

I have also been told that over 50% of those created ‘die’ within the first 3 months of existence and that over 75% ‘die within their first 6 months. I have no idea how many make it to 50 posts, but it would perhaps be a little meaningless (if in fact the other statistics have any meaning) as a post can be anything from a few words to several pages.

My blog has, however, been developing and growing for well over 6 months now, so I should congratulate myself for that achievement. I have also enjoyed it immensely – which I didn’t expect to.

When I first started the blog, I expected it to be a bit of a chore.  I didn’t expect it to help my creativity of thought in the ways it has. When I have quiet moments, or sometimes as my head hits the pillow at night, I start thinking about what has happened over the past day or so that I could blog about. What has happened that links into both business improvement and learning and development? What will people be interested in reading about? I find this whole process very positive.

I have a number of favourites from my ’50 not out’.

I was very pleased with my second post (Great Railway Stations of the World – 02.06.10) as I think it accurately describes what I was, and still am, attempting to achieve.

The blog that took me longest to write was “Ofsted – head in the sandpit?” (07.11.10). This was because I was very passionate about the subject but wanted to make very sure everything I said was accurate. It took me the best part of 3 hours but I was pleased with the end result.

Story of a Life” (18.09.10) was enjoyable to write as it involved the great Harry Chapin. What made it particularly enjoyable was that it started in New York and ended in New York – which wasn’t planned when I started writing it, but fitted with the post’s title (and the title of one of his greatest stories). Perfect!

I also wrote two about the Affective Domain (To the Affective and beyond – 22.07.10 & Playing with feeling and playing to learn – 26.07.10). I was particularly pleased with these as they are about an aspect of training delivery that I am passionate about, and because I got feedback from several people as to how helpful they were.

Which am I most disappointed with? If I was that disappointed with any I wouldn’t have published them, or would have removed them! Having said that, if I had to pick one it would be “Your national embarrassment” (26.08.10) as it felt a little forced when I wrote it and I’m not sure it really went anywhere. But does a post always have to go somewhere?

Accurate and objective self-assessment also requires feedback from others – so I’d be interested to know if there have been any posts of particular note for you?


It’s OK to Allow yourself to – it really is!

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Ever wished you could react more effectively in certain pressure or uncomfortable situations? This post really could be the key to you achieving that.

Within my last post on indecision, I mentioned the Transactional Analysis (TA) concept of ‘Drivers’ – and in particular the “Be perfect” Driver.  This has generated a couple of emails and a discussion with a  colleague – which has prompted me to write a little more about these things called Drivers.

I am surprised that so little is spoken or written about these Drivers as they can have such an impact on a person’s life. Perhaps one or more is having an unhelpful impact on yours?

The theory was developed by Taibi Kahler in the 1970s and there are 5 accepted Drivers – (1) Please Others, (2) Be Perfect, (3) Be Strong, (4) Try Hard, and (5) Hurry Up. They are the same whatever your sex, culture or race.  There is possibly a sixth – Be Careful – although this is in dispute.  

As I explained in the previous post, we can be programmed with these Drivers in our early childhood, and then when we come to adult life they can be quite a hindrance.  It is not known exactly how we take them on, although it is accepted that it is in early childhood, as with many aspects of TA.  One of the suggestions or theories is that they are part of the ‘Script’ we write for ourselves in order to survive in our early months and years, and another is that they are the words we hear from our parents when toilet training.

Kahler detailed specific words, phrases, tones and body language that are associated with each of the Drivers.  It is a real skill to be able to identify when others are affected by one of the Drivers as they can occur for only a second or two – and not generally for longer than 20 seconds or so at a time. It is a little easier to identify your own Drivers through studying the behaviour associated with each and reflecting on how you have behaved in certain situations.

We use them to response to perceived threats where we probably feel threatened. And when we feel threatened – as you may well have experienced in all sorts of situations at work or away from work – we generally think, feel, react and behave in a particular way. This is because we know, somehow, that this series of thoughts, feelings and behaviours have assisted and protected us – and therefore enabled us to survive – on many previous occasions. Unfortunately, these previous occasions were a long, long time ago and since then we have developed a far greater understanding of the world and far more coping mechanisms which are probably of more use in the present day.  We can be trapped by our Drivers.

Does that make sense? Can you think of times recently when you may have used one or more of the Drivers? And if so, how useful were they?

But I have good news for you! For each of the Drivers there is an ‘Allower’.

Driver – Allower

  • Please Others  – It’s OK to consider, respect and please yourself
  • Be Perfect  – It’s okay to be yourself – you’re good enough as you are
  • Be Strong  – It’s OK to be open and express your wants or needs
  • Try Hard  – It’s OK to do it
  • Hurry Up  – It’s OK to take your time

Try an Allower for yourself – they are there for all of us to use. The next time you tell yourself to Hurry Up in a pressurised situation, tell yourself you can take your time. When you feel yourself telling yourself to Be Perfect, accept that you’re good enough and you don’t need to be perfect. It will possibly be uncomfortable – after all, you’ve been living with these Drivers for how many years? So take your time – give yourself time. Because you’re worth it!

If you want to read more about each of the Drivers (and the words, feelings, actions, etc., associated with each), Allowers, Scripts and other TA theories, I would recommend a great book by Ian Stewart and Vann Joines – TA Today.


Need help getting off the fence?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Indecision has been the theme of this past weekend. It reminded me of the French proverb, “Between two stools one sits on the ground”. It also reminded me of the Turkish proverb, “He became an infidel hesitating between two mosques”. I couldn’t decide which one to use …

The effect of indecision on us and those we manage or interact with can be immense. This was powerfully expressed by William James when he wrote, “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual” (The Principles of Psychology, 1892)

So, if you want to improve your decision making or think you have a tendancy to procrastinate (and if you can’t decide, then perhaps you have!), here are some tips that will help you:

1. Give yourself enough time to obtain and consider all the information. If you don’t give yourself enough time to do this you are more likely to make a poor quality decision, or miss the opportunity to make a decision. Train or bus, bus or train … – spend too much time thinking about it too close to the time, and you’ll probably miss them both.

2. Don’t think that there is a right and a wrong option (or options).  By thinking in terms of ‘right and wrong’ we can put pressure on ourselves – unnecessarily. Usually there are pros and cons to each option, and one may be better than the other or others, but they are not generally right and wrong. If something is that obvious that one really is right and the others are wrong, it’s usually fairly obvious to us.

3. Take time out to consider what you need to achieve. When we are managing projects or teams, it is easy to get involved in day to day matters and not take time out to think more long term. By considering your vision, your aims, your objectives you have then got something to consider decisions against – and it makes them a whole lot easier to take.

4. Don’t worry about the decision. If you have considered all the information available and made a rational decision, you have done your best. And if it turns out not to be the best decision due to additional information becoming available, it was still the best decision when you made it. And you may well be able to implement an amended decision – most decisions are not final.

5. Avoid perfectionism. Easier said than done! Often in early life we have been programmed by our parents and carers to be perfect – they do it with the best of intentions but it can become unhelpful for us later in life. In Transactional Analysis (TA) the theory suggests that we have 5 possible behaviour drivers – one of these is “Be perfect”. You don’t have to be perfect or make perfect decisions. If this is a particular issue for you, tell yourself that you are good enough as you are – this is the antidote to “Being Perfect”. And if you use these tips, your decisions will be good enough.

6. Communicate clearly with yourself. You have thoughts and feelings. When considering all the information and options, you need to be objective and rational. And when we are considering which way to turn, we have internal discussions.  Those internal conversations need to be clear and not clouded by fear of making the wrong decision, or other negative emotions. Writing down your thought processes can help to ensure you have the most productive internal discussions possible.     

7. Follow your intuition. Be in contact with and use your feelings – this is sometimes referred to as being Emotionally Intelligent (EI). Those of us who do not use our Emotional Intelligence will generally make less effective decisions than those of us who do.  Our brains are wired to make us emotional beings, and the experts suggest we experience more than 450 emotions each day – how much notice do you currently take of that information? If it feels right, it probably will be right.

8. Cut your teeth on small decisions. Try out these techniques on small decisions. This will help you work out what works for you and what may not work – and what might need more practice. By using the process in less important scenarios, it will be easier to use the process in more potentially difficult situations.

Have a go. See what works for you. Or do you have any other tips that have worked for you?


Motivate your manager!

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Have you set yourself up for the New Year? It seems like it has only just started, but we are already more than 1% of the way through the year – we completed that around 2pm on Wednesday (wherever you are in the world!). In fact, if you live in Scotland, this 1% had passed before the majority of people had returned to work – due to the weekend and bank holidays.

So, if you have sorted your own action plan out, here’s another idea on how you can get your year off to a flying start – have you ever considered motivating your boss?

We so often think about what we are going to achieve, or how to develop and motivate our staff, but rarely our bosses.  

Almost all writings on motivation are designed to give the manager techniques to motivate staff. It was assumed that motivation was a one-way street that runs from top to bottom.

The same thing used to be thought of communication, until someone discovered that it was a two-way street (although I do accept that not everyone has worked that out yet!). Current management thinking says that employees should be concerned about motivating their bosses, and should not take a passive role toward this issue.

But how do you motivate your boss? Here are some of the most effective ways:

1)    Seize the initiative: Don’t wait for your boss to “give” you work. Find out what needs to be done and suggest to your boss how you could do it.

2)    Generate new ideas: Be creative – think of better ways to do the work in your area – and outside of your area too, and tell your boss about it.

3)    Offer your assistance: Your boss needs your support and help. Show them that you’re there to provide full support.

4)    Ask your boss to delegate: Your boss might not be aware that you are ready to assume more responsibilities and take on new challenges. Ask the boss to delegate responsibilities you think you can take on.

5)    Provide solutions: Don’t limit your contact with the boss to the times you bring up a problem or a request for help. Bosses need to hear solutions, not just problems.

6)    Give compliments: Your boss is human – really! They need to receive compliments when they do something well, or when they help you in a positive way. Don’t worry that it might sound insincere. Compliments, done in good taste and for a good reason, are always appreciated – as long as you don’t over do it.

7)    Show your commitment: It’s important for the boss to know that you care about your work, about the organisation, and about the boss. Show that you care, in words and in action. Go out of your way to provide good service and promote the company.

8)    Stay positive: People who talk and act in a negative way can depress people around them, including the boss. It’s important for your own mental health and for that of others that you are positive and enthusiastic. Try saying “Thank Goodness It’s Monday” instead of the usual “Friday” reference. But it’s a matter of your general attitude, not just what you say.

What additional tips would you add to this list?