Friday 25 September 2015

Another Good Book

I have just finished another excellent book, Psychological Dimensions of Executive Coaching. In this ambitious book, Bluckert provides both a comprehensive overview of, and practical insights into, the field of Executive Coaching. 

He starts by establishing a framework for effective coaching, including the critical success factors, and then surveys the common issues that coaches are asked to help with. All of this was useful, though a little pedestrian at times (for example the coachability levels framework).

However, for me it was the next section that was particularly valuable: The Foundations of a Psychological Approach to Coaching. Here he addresses the key dimensions of a coaching session, and develops the idea of psychological mindedness as an essential coaching attribute. That leads into a discussion of the desirable proficiencies of a coach, and, naturally enough, how to develop as a coach.

The final section was also fascinating, as he addresses the issue of helping people through change from a Gestalt perspective. I have long been interested in Gestalt, and have worked with skilled Gestalt-trained change agents, (most notably Warren Scott, of Oakwood Learning) and picked up a little along the way. So I was particularly pleased to see this and extend my knowledge a bit further: it reminds me of other books on Gestalt and change on my bookcase that I really must get around to studying (something about unfinished business there...).

I was slightly frustrated, reading this, as I had borrowed a copy, so I couldn't scribbble in the margins. Fortunately, my new copy arrived this morning, so I will now re-read it, making copious notes as I go, and hope that this helps my retention.

The next challenge is increasing my psychological mindedness as I coach: that will, I think, be a longer term process...

Friday 18 September 2015

Strategic Five Marketing - Again

I have been reflecting on why I am so angered by Strategic Five's apparently dishonest approach to recruitment, and also doing a little more digging.  This post is a summary of where I am up to. For the background, see my previous post, here, if you have not already read it.

I am angry because it seems to me both wrong in principle and cruel in practice to behave in the way that they seem to do. Cruel is a strong word, and I do not imply that is their intention, but I do not think it overstates the impact of their tactics.

Here's the story of the graduate whom I know best who was fooled by them. He graduated a couple of years ago, started doing a PGCE and then realised that teaching really wasn't for him. So he quit that after a year, and started looking for other jobs. He has found some filler jobs, as it were, to keep the wolf from the door, but is still searching for a reasonable graduate job. 

He has sent in many application forms and CVs and typically heard nothing back: that is a dispiriting process. Then he got an interview for a Graduate Management Programme - and the interview went well. He liked them, and they liked him. So his hopes were raised, his confidence, which had been flagging, was boosted. Over the weekend he told a few friends and got the response: 'I hope it's not Strategic Five...' As I recounted before, he tried to ascertain if he were being led up the garden path, Strategic Five denied it, and then, with tragic inevitability, on the Monday, it was confirmed: he'd been conned. Needless to say, that did nothing for his confidence.

What makes me angry is not just the impact on him, but the fact that Strategic Five seem to have been doing this repeatedly. 

A look at Twitter reveals comments like:

It is interesting that Strategic Five have not responded to these tweets, though they must be aware of them as their Twitter handle was quoted, which draws it to their attention: and their feed is not very busy with notifications, as far as I can see.

Likewise, I took a quick look at The Student Room website and found these. The first is quite recent, but the second is from 2013 - so this has been going on for some time.

Note in both the Twitter comments and the fuller comments on The Student Room how frustrating the experience was for these duped graduates: and then remember that two of Strategic Five's four professed values are Honesty and Respect.

I have emailed Strategic Five, and tweeted at them, but had no reply: again for a marketing organisation, that seems strange. Likewise, I find it strange that they boast about their client base including 'the Nation's biggest brands' but do not name a single client on their wwwsite.

One last thing I dug up: Strategic Five are advertising a range of jobs with a range of salaries on recruitment websites. These are almost certainly bogus, given that their Linked-In site says they have 1-10 employees - recruiting 15 'marketing' jobs would more than double their size in one go.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Strategic Five Marketing: A Scam?

Has anyone come across the organisation Strategic Five Marketing ?

It seems to me that they are conning graduates. I know of three, now, who were enticed with prospects of Graduate Management Schemes, only to discover it is commission-only door-to-door selling.

Here’s the spec for the role:

Graduate Management Program 
Graduate Progression Opportunity - No Working Experience Required
Strategic Five Marketing are an ever growing outsource sales and promotions company specialising in face-to-face customer acquisition, branding and management - and affiliated with the Nations biggest blue chip brands within the industries of telecoms, beauty, charity, electronics and entertainment, and fresh produce. 
With graduation looming, we are now looking for the next generation of ambitious and career driven candidates excited to embrace a graduate opportunity, with full training provided, to kick start their careers.
Graduate Management Candidates must be:
Customer focused and confident to build rapports with our customer and client portfolio.Be coachable to embrace creative marketing and branding methods.Career driven and competitive to progress towards team leader, campaign co-ordinator, and marketing management positions.Enthusiastic to learn business sectors including finance, recruitment and HRProfessional and articulate to work alongside the Nations biggest brandsPrevious candidates of the Graduate Management Program 2014 have come from backgrounds of business management, art and design, sports and leisure/ coaching, and also applied backgrounds such as sciences, law and performing arts. 
Successful Candidates will be Offered:
Full training and on-going mentoringInvite to National and local social and corporate eventsInternational and National travel opportunitiesCareer progression and business developmentCareer stability and full time positions
For a graduate looking for work in a tough market, that sounds quite appealing. 

The third of the three I know of was pleased to be invited to an interview, and even more pleased when invited back for the following Monday. Initially he thought it was for a second interview, but then found it was for a day of working with them to see what it’s like. However, over the weekend a friend told him that it was a scam to lure people in to unpaid door-to-door selling.

A mutual friend takes up the story:

So they refused to admit that it was commission based door to door sales right up until the last minute! He phoned ahead to ask what he'd be doing and was told he'd be with someone from accounts. Peter from accounts took him to meet the clients in Sunderland and said that he wouldn't describe it as door to door sales, when asked, although the clients were in their houses and he was knocking on their doors trying to sell them stuff!! In what sense he was from accounts it never emerged, because his job was selling not accounting. Very nutty!  

Another friend has pointed me at these organisations, which, while apparently unrelated, seem to have similar feel: DS-MAX and The Cobra Group

I would particularly urge my academic friends and colleagues to let their graduates and their career services know about this. If people want to go into commission-only door-to-door selling, that’s fine by me (I suppose, grudgingly) but not under false pretences.

Oh, and I notice that Strategic Five has four corporate values, of which the first is Honesty, and the third, Respect. I’ve already dropped them a line, and will, of course, report back their response, if any… I did enter a 'visitor post' on their Facebook page, politely asking about this. It has not been posted. In fact, no visitor posts have been posted. I wonder why?

Friday 11 September 2015

A Lot of Learning

I had a CPD day on Tuesday. I spent the day with a number of colleagues, and the evening at an EMCC event on resilience for coaches.

One of the interesting issues that arose was vulnerability: how as coaches we may choose to make ourselves vulnerable, and the benefits of that to our coaching clients; and also how involuntary vulnerability, or the fear of it, may get in the way of working effectively and with integrity.

Likewise, we considered the effects of vulnerability on our clients, and how, as coaches, a primary responsibility is to provide a safe environment where they can, if they wish, explore such vulnerability and its impact on their behaviour and feelings.  There was also  difference of views about vulnerability made visible by leaders: some of us thought it was a useful thing for them to model; others that it was a manipulative strategy.  My own view is that it could be either, depending on context, intention and so forth.

We also discussed parallel processes: how we may find issues arising in our coaching sessions that are actually based in our life outside the coaching context; as may our clients, of course.

Another important issue was the issue of attending. One of the resolutions I made as a result was to adopt a 'pre-flight check' before every coaching session, to ensure that I do not coach on auto-pilot...

The evening session on resilience was also interesting. It largely covered familiar ground, but was a valuable refresher; and as ever on such occasions, it was meeting colleagues and discussing with them that was a large part of the value. 

So an excellent return to work after the holidays: and whilst it can sometimes be daunting to realise how much I still have to learn and apply to improve my coaching practice, the overall emotion is one of exhilaration.

Friday 4 September 2015

An Eventful Summer

In my last blog post I announced that we were getting connected to superfast broadband on 17 August.  Naively, perhaps, I thought that was true, as that is what our new provider had promised.  However, on getting back from a glorious week in Wales, I found that the router had not arrived, and that prompted me to ring the ISP - and sure enough, someone had forgotten to do something or other, and we were not, in fact, scheduled to be connected that day after all. They were terribly apologetic, but the soonest they could re-schedule for was 3 September. Clearly, that is a much worse time for me; I had chosen mid-August as the quietest time for the business: inSeptember, things start to get busy again.

And sure enough, the engineer turned up on the 3rd, did something at the box in the village, plugged in the new router, and told us the internet should be live in half an hour - but officially he was only meant to promise it by the end of the day.

By the end of the day, it still wasn't live: and given we don't get 3G here, I was effectively isolated from email, Skype and all the other online tools of my trade.  Cue angry phone call first thing this morning. And guess what, someone had forgotten to do something, a switch was thrown and we were online.

So an unpromising start with the new ISP - but I have to admit the internet is a lot faster now, so maybe it's worth it.
Not our car, but represents how I feel about it...

Other events over the summer include the timing belt on the car snapping long before it should have done, and trashing the engine - so a negotiation with Nissan about their meeting the cost of that. They wanted to local Nissan dealer to have a look inside, but unfortunately, the dealership managed to drop the car off the back of their truck and write it  off (along with two other vehicles on their forecourt). Fortunately nobody was hurt. So a further negotiation about that, as their insurers wanted to value the car as having no engine, whereas I felt that was unreasonable. And of course we had to find a replacement car.

On top of which, Mike managed both to lose his wallet and fail his driving test (by an very unlucky major...), so has had to re-book just as he is leaving for University; Clare got a new job and is moving out to live in Manchester, and needed to buy a car for that (with parental help, of course); and so on... Also, we were asked to have a Spanish student to stay, as she is working on her English. She was a delightful guest, and gave us the excuse to do a lot of walking, castle-visiting, boating and so on.

I'm also continuing to work on my ILM Coaching programme, which although I started somewhat grudgingly, is (of course) proving very worth while.

Nonetheless, my restful break and the time set aside to finish the book all felt somewhat eroded. However, I have managed to keep calm in the midst of these slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (aka first world problems) and  I am still determined to finish the book this year and get it published asap - and am doing the final editing at present, while I await the graphics I have commissioned...