Archive for November, 2011

MBTI – two very different options

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Not only did I successfully complete my MBTI Step I and Step II Certified Practitioner qualifications, I paddled in the sea and walked along Clearwater Beach, took out a canoe in a State Park and met (and rubbed the nose of) a wild manatee, and visited all 4 Disney theme parks in a day. You have probably already worked out I didn’t do it in England.

I took the qualification in Gainesville, Florida, in early November 2011. Having encouraged others to follow this route in the past, I thought it relevant to check it out for myself (I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for you, dear readers!).

The main reason I encourage others to take a trip across The Pond is the cost saving.  The base cost to undertake the qualification in Gainesville was £758. To undertake it in England it would have cost me over £4,500. I find the financial saving both staggering and irresistible. And that’s before comparing the weather and leisure opportunities!

Obviously, if your base is in the UK it will probably cost you more in travel costs to undertake the qualification in the US, but there will still be savings. The table below shows what it cost me. You can then work out what your own costs would be and so undertake a comparison should you wish to.

ItemOPP, OxfordCAPT, Gainesville,
Step I£3,234 (4 or 5* days, split over two periods of time) *OPP
website was unclear on exact duration
£758 (3 Days)The £ rate fluctuates due to exchange rate. The actual
price is $1195 ($1295 if booked less than 4 weeks before start of course and
$1495 anywhere else in the USA)
Step II£1,452 (1 day)Cost Included in above (1 day)
Total cost of qualification£4,686 inc. VAT (5 or 6 days spread over 3 periods of
£758 (4 days in a row)Cost difference partly because OPP are sole provider in
Europe, and there are 3 providers in the US
Qualification processNot sure5 ‘exams’ – a total of 70 questions. Need to get 80%
across all 5 (not in each).
If you are in the less than 5% who do not pass the exams,
you can complete the course by submitting an essay once you get home
Postage for manuals to be sent to UKNot sure whether this is included in OPP’s price£85 ($125)I went with another person, and they were happy to send
the Manuals together, which reduced the cost here to £55 each
Flightsn/a£450 return
Rail fare to airport£30
Car hire (US)£104 (for 1 week)
Fuel (US)£37 (for 458 miles)Some of this was ‘pleasure mileage’
Accommodation (US)£30 per night
Food (US)£20 per dayBreakfast free at hotel, CAPT provide great snacks and
drinks all through the training day

I went for a week as I was only able to get flights for less than £1,200 by staying for 7 nights. Consequently, I had an additional 3 days of very enjoyable rest and relaxation – as outlined in my opening paragraph.

Whilst the cost savings can be persuasive, I accept that this is only one aspect that people consider when undertaking learning. Encouragingly, I found that all the other aspects were positive.

The Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT) is the provider and they appear to be closer to Myers and Briggs ‘origins’ than some of the other providers.  For example, in their ‘Library’ where breaks are spent, they have Isabel Myers’ writing desk which she used for much of her work.

Our trainer was the ex-CEO of CAPT who now delivers these courses all around the US. He was very, very knowledgeable with 37 years’ experience of using and developing the MBTI instrument, although he was more of an instructor than a trainer.

There were 11 people in our group – 8 from the US, 2 from the UK and one from Belgium.  I both enjoyed and benefitted from the international mix – and from the feedback we received, our US colleagues also found it beneficial – and found the language differences very amusing! The international mix really did add an extra dimension to the programme which would certainly encourage me to undertake further learning in America. As examples , there were participants from the private, public and third sectors, and one person on the course was the Head of HR Administration for President Reagan’s adminstration.

One of my concerns prior to undertaking the programme was whether I (or how easy it) would be to then register with OPP in the UK so that I could purchase materials and reports. It has been very easy – I sent them a PDF of my certificate and they added me to their database within 48 hours. They have been very helpful.

I realise that some readers may not know what the MBTI instrument is – my next post will address this.

Gaining the qualification was an achievement, and visiting all 4 Disney theme parks in a day was also an achievement – and combining the two together made it a truly memorable event!


Tips on how to choose a coach

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I have been asked the question a couple of times recently, “How should I go about choosing a coach?” It’s not a question I have previously given too much thought to, but I have thought to myself in the past as to how I can choose the most appropriate mechanic, electrician, chimney sweep, dentist, etc.  And if two people ask me the question, perhaps I should think about it. So this is how I would recommend choosing a coach.

If at all possible, get some recommendations from friends or colleagues. Personal recommendations are generally the best. If that’s not possible, do some searches on the internet in your local area or perhaps contact your local Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) branch. Once you have the details of at least 3 potential coaches, consider the following approach with each of them.

Arrange to meet face to face with your prospective coach before you undertake any coaching. You need to feel comfortable with the person – and if you use your intuition, you should know within a few minutes as to whether there is the potential for the relationship to work. I say potential, as your selection process needs to be more thorough, but your intuition should tell you whether it’s worth progressing to that next stage. Trust your intuition.

Ask your prospective coach for some examples of people they have coached previously, or are coaching at the moment. If you are seeking something specific from the coaching – for example to improve your interview successes – ask what experience they have of coaching other individuals in such circumstances. And ask to speak to one of their current or past coachees. Not all coachees would be happy to do this, but any coach of any worth will have people they are coaching who will be more than happy to talk to other prospective coachees. If they are reluctant or unable to meet this request, I should be wary.

Enquire about their continuous professional development (CPD). In other words, how do they keep themselves up to date, how do they maintain and improve their skills? Good coaches will have a documented record of their CPD – ask to see a copy of it. Remember – it’s you who is in the driving seat as you are looking to employ this person’s services, so be as objectively intrusive as you need in order to satisfy yourself of the person’s coaching abilities. Some people ask coaches what their qualifications are – I think this is fairly pointless unless you are very well up to speed on coaching qualifications. There are some very good qualifications where there is much practical learning and there are others that are free to attend and last a day or less – both sets of attendees will call themselves ‘coaches’. Secondly, they may have gained their qualification this year, or 20 years ago – another reason to ask about their CPD.

Request a free coaching session – although the majority of good coaches will offer you this without you needing to ask for it. It could take place at your initial meeting or on a separate occasion. This will give you a better understanding of how well the two of you will be able to work together.

And what’s it all going to cost? Will the person charge per session, and if so how many sessions do you anticipate having? What will you get for your money? Is it just the session, or will the person make some notes for you? Will they offer you (free) email and phone support between sessions? Consider asking for an ‘outcome’ based fee as opposed to ‘output’ based. Let’s use the example I mentioned previously – wanting coaching in order to improve interview successes. If the person offers you six sessions at £Y each, suggest that you will pay them half that, but will give them a bonus (of more than 6 x £Y) if you are successful at interview within the next 12 months.  This would cost you slightly more if you are successful (which is what you want) or slightly less if you are not successful. It will also test how confident they are in their own skills, and possibly how confident they are that you have the potential.

You might think that this is a rather detailed and perhaps too thorough a process – I guess your views will depend on how much you value the potential benefits. If you do follow these tips, however, you will find yourself a very good quality coach.

Are there any tips I have missed?


Mediation matters

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

As a result of my last post on Steps and the process they went through in reforming, I received an email asking me about tips on successful mediation.

ACAS and CIPD have published an excellent guide, “Mediation – an Employer’s Guide”.  If you are considering implementing a mediation process in your organisation, I think it’s invaluable. It is also very helpful if you just want to learn more about the process of mediation. If, however, you don’t read long documents, just don’t have time to read the booklet, or want to hear someone else’s views on mediation, here goes.

Mediations are probably some of the most enjoyable things I do in the work environment . This is partly because I have seen how beneficial they can be to both the individuals involved and their organisations, and partly because they are exciting to facilitate. I considered for several minutes whether I should use the word “exciting” in case it sounded frivolous – but I do find them exciting.

They are exciting because I never know what is going to happen and I always feel I have to be at the top of my game when dealing with them. The participants will react in all sorts of ways – dependent upon what I say and do, and what the other person or persons say and do. I think my overall tip is that a mediator needs to go into such situations with the “I can handle” belief as opposed to the less confident “I need to handle”. If a person is approaching the handling of mediations with the latter attitude, I would suggest that they undertake some co-mediation before undertaking them alone.

Many people advocate meeting with the participants several days before the mediation in order that they know you, understand that it is a voluntary process, understand how the process is likely to unfold and have the opportunity to ask you any questions. I see the sense in that, but there are also times when I would not meet individuals until the day of the mediation. This would particularly be the case where I am working as an internal ediator (i.e. as a fellow employee) and the individuals are working closely together. I need them both (or all) to know that I am independent and that I have not taken sides with either party prior to the mediation. So, if it also meets their needs (and it often does as they have already decided the mediation will not work!) then I explain to them individually on the day what is likely to happen, my role, etc.

Whichever process I follow though, I never discuss the issues that we ae meeting about and at the start of the meeting when they come together I always ask each person to confirm that this is the case. This is really important for me so that I enter the situation with no ‘baggage’ or information that I might otherwise let slip into the conversation, and so that the parties know that I am impartial.

As for the process itself, the key to a successful mediation is encouraging and enabling people to talk in terms of facts as opposed to adjectives. By the time we have got to the mediation stage, they are almost always viewing their relationship or the situation in terms of adjectives. They are often running on negative emotion, which is great fuel for generating a lack of objectivity.

Once we are in a room all together, one person gets the chance to explain the situation from their perspective. Using only facts. I stop the monologue whenever an adjective is used – unless it is the person explaining how something made them feel. And the other person(s) cannot interrupt – hence why I call it a monologue. They can each make notes to remind them of points they want to make, but they can’t interject. This makes them listen – which, after sticking to the facts, is the second most important aspect of a mediation. Using monologues also stops arguments and disagreements – up until getting together for the formal mediation they will often have jumped into the situation, and no listening takes place.

And facts generally get people to start to listen – because facts have been missing for so long, so they hear a different story. If I have mediated successfully, I have helped to change the record.

By the time the other person then gets to give their monologue it is usually a little easier for the mediator. And if you achieve that as the mediator, the rest of it is relatively easy.

At the conclusion, I always encourage them to write down what they have agreed. This is so important. It means that they have clarity on what they have agreed, and have almost ‘a statement’ that they can read or give to other interested parties – which limits the potential for reverting to adjectives!

I remember one that I facilitated where the individuals would not even look at each other at the start – they sat back to back with their arms folded. Gradually, as they listened to facts they became increasingly engaged. The making of a written note for future reference, a look over the shoulder, moving the position of the chairs – all great signs for the mediator! After 4 hours together, they understood what had actually taken place, accepted each other’s position, agreed a ‘statement’ to give to the other members of their team and decided to go out for a meal together that evening.

Their manager called it a “miracle”. I was pleased with the impact on productivity and performance it had for the team, but I wouldn’t have called it a miracle. I just enabled people to deal in facts and listen to each other.

One of my previous posts gives additional assistance and structure for mediations – “Can you afford not to do this?” explains a model called CUDSA which I always use in such circumstances.

If this generates any other questions for you, I’m happy to try and answer them. Alternatively, what are your tips for other mediators?