Tuesday 27 March 2018

Why we do what we do

I am currently reading Why we do what we do  by Edward Deci, and finding it fascinating. 

One of the first issues that really caught my attention was his examination of the use of money as a motivator. It is such a truism, but according to Deci we need to be very careful here, as it can undermine intrinsic motivation, changing a chosen task into a chore, and leading to a risk of alienation. He describes, for example, an experiment in which students are given puzzles to solve. Some are asked to do it for the fun of it; others are paid. At the breaks, those paid, put the puzzles down and do something else; those doing it for fun, continue to play with it.  Which would we prefer in our teams?...

His central thesis is that intrinsic motivation is both more effective and healthier than extrinsic motivation. And to encourage (or at least not destroy) intrinsic motivation, Autonomy is critical. Perceived competence is also critical.

He notes the failure of centralised bureaucratic systems (eg Soviet, Chinese) that undermine both, and lead to disengaged people doing work they believe to be meaningless with a deadening effect both on productivity and on their own well-being.

Competition is interesting: if it’s win - lose, that is problematic; but if it is perceived as a chance to test yourself against a challenging standard, it can be very positive.

Feedback: Praise is also interesting: non-controlling praise works; controlling praise (ie praise motivated by a desire to attain specific future behaviours) undermines intrinsic motivation; ambiguous praise (ie not clear if controlling or not) is likely not to work for women (who typically interpret it as controlling - conditioned to seek praise as a reward?) and is likely to work for men (interpret it as appropriate recognition for their efforts - conditioned to think of themselves as entitled to recognition?)

Negative feedback: can be disastrous: as it is often both controlling and undermining of competence!

With all of rewards, limits and feedback (both positive and negative) it’s all about how you do it. So inviting self-evaluation is by far the best approach. Deci acknowledges that these are necessary but thinks that we pay too little attention to the risks, and too frequently address the needs in ways that are severely counter-productive.

People need to understand the instrumentalities; how to behave in order to achieve desired outcomes. The linkage between their behaviour and those outcomes - and feeling competent at those instruments, in a way supportive of their autonomy and nurturing of their competence.... is likely to be valuable.  Self-critical feedback (that is accurate) is of course a competent thing to undertake.

So loads to think about, and I have not even finished the book yet.  But it does raise questions over the influencing skills model I use, for example, about which I need to think more.

And I may well write further about this one, once I have finished it.

Monday 19 March 2018

GDPR and Ice Cream

On Friday (16 March) we had a very valuable CCNet meeting at Abbott Lodge Ice Cream Farm. And not valuable only because of the quality of the ice cream (excellent though that was). But the real value lay in the opportunity to be taken systematically through the implications of the new General Data Protection Regulations by Mark Wightman (of Aethos Consulting).
Mark Wightman
Mark started by some myth-busting.  For example, people who claim that they can (for a fee) make you GDPR-compliant are probably overstating their case.  The regulations are full of words like ‘proportionate’ and ‘reasonable.’ What that means in practice is that until there have been a few court cases and the judiciary have decided what is proportionate and/or reasonable, we won’t know.
On the other hand, that also means that small businesses, such as those represented at the meeting, will not be held to the same standard as, say Google or HSBC or PWC.
As long as we take a reasonable and proportionate approach, then even if we get something wrong and someone complains, the regulator is more likely to say we should change our policy or practice, than to land us with a large fine.
Mark then took us through the essentials: understanding what personal data is; what principles underpin the regulations, and what sequence of steps we should take to develop appropriate and proportionate policies and practices.
All those who attended found it a very useful, and surprisingly (!) interesting morning, and we are most grateful to Mark for sharing his expertise with us.
(Cross-posted from the CCNet Blog)

Saturday 10 March 2018

Time To Think Coaching (and Collusion re-visited)

Shirley Wardell
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was booked on the Time to Think Coaching Course, with one of Nancy Kline's colleagues, Shirley Wardell.  In that blog post I also reflected on the risk of collusion that I am concerned about, in non-directive approaches to coaching.

I attended the first part of that course this week, with the second in a fortnight's time.

It was, as I had expected, extremely interesting and stimulating, and took my understanding of the Time To Think coaching process further, as well as giving me the scope to practice the process overall and in particular the elements of it with which I most needed to get more familiar.

It was also fascinating to work with Shirley, who has been a colleague of Nancy's for many years and is extremely familiar with, and skilled in, the Thinking Environment approach. Encouragingly, she is very different from Nancy - an exuberant extravert (ex-sales trainer, dramatic producer...), while Nancy is a more reflective introvert. So seeing the same principles and practices modelled - and in a very disciplined way - by such  a different character was fascinating. There was none of that sense of artificiality that I have sometimes encountered in, say NLP experts: Shirley was following the rules, as it were, but in a way that was wholly authentic and congruent with who she is.

I did raise the issue of Collusion, and of course the first response was to have a thinking round about it: all the course participants, and Shirley as the course leader, thought out loud about the topic.  

A few points emerged that were very helpful. One is that the Thinking Environment includes, as one of the ten components, Information.  That means, unlike in purely client-led sessions, the coach has the right - even, Shirley suggested, the duty - to raise issues that were important to the coachee's goals, if necessary. 

Carl Rogers
That includes the coach's perceptions, insights or wonderings - raised appropriately as questions to explore. She also mentioned Carl Rogers' criteria for assessing whether such things needed to be raised: they had to be striking, persistent, and relevant.

Another coach on the course, Ayesha Malik, highlighted the importance of contracting, in this regard.  (So much comes back to contracting!) If we have explained the ten component well, we will have included a discussion of Information, and whether - and how - we feed back our perceptions as part of the learning process. 

We also discussed strategies for when the coachee might talk through the whole session as a way (unconsciously or otherwise) of ensuring that there is no time for such feedback. Again, contracting (and if necessary re-contracting) are important here; and then raising this behaviour itself, explicitly with the client, as a topic for discussion.

So my initial concerns about the risks of collusion when using this model have been largely mitigated: it was largely a lack of understanding on my part; and the helpful part of all that is that I now know how to improve my practice in that area when using the Time To Think approach.

Thursday 1 March 2018

Time Management Tools

Regular readers will remember that I wrote about Toggl a while ago.  Toggl helps you track how you are spending your time, including providing you with the ability to categorise and group items, so you can get an overview of the proportion of time spent on different projects, types of activity etc.

I found it very interesting, as it made clear to me quite how much time I spend travelling; and how well (or not) I use that time.  Also the discipline of recording made me more likely to stick to the task I had started, and less likely to goof off an play on social media, walk the dog, or have a coffee - at least until I had finished the task.

 It also revealed how much time I spend on client projects which I never record (liaising, briefing guest speakers, preparing handout material etc). All of which is fine - and rather lays to rest my image of myself as lazy, which is partly historic, and partly because I don't really count the time sat at home on my laptop as work - but this has revealed that a lot of it really is.

But perhaps this is the moment to confess that I am not using Toggl assiduously (or indeed at all) any more. I think that there are a few reasons for that. One is that I took a break for a couple of days in January when I was particularly busy and didn't re-start.  A second is that I wasn't sure of the best ways of categorising some things (is coaching preparation and review best seen as part of coaching? Or separate? And if separate, is review (which is in part CPD) separate again?) and so on.  I saw the risks of wasting time on the tool rather than doing more productive activities.  So that's a risk with Toggl.  But I think I will continue to use it, periodically, to keep an eye on the balance of my time.

And then, just the other day (as I was preparing for a coaching session, with the chap who had introduced me to Toggl) I found the Eisenhower app. This is simply the famous Urgency/Importance grid, online. Where Toggl helps track what you spend time on, this helps you to focus on what you should be spending time on - and what you should not.

I find the in-built advice less helpful (eg for Urgent but not Important, they simply say 'delegate' but that is not always possible or even appropriate).  For the best online explanation of the grid (he says modestly) see my video:

But the tool itself is useful. You can use it as a to-do list, by adding things you need to do to the appropriate quadrant.  They can be dragged to another quadrant if things (eg the deadlines) change; and once done, deleted (but are still available to read or even re-instate or re-cycle).  And as with Toggl, once you have decreed that something is urgent and important, there is quite an incentive to do it: and then to do the next thing; and then to move on and do something Important before it becomes urgent.  And likewise to contain the urgent but not important activities so that they don't swamp the important ones.  

All common sense, and what one tries to do anyway - but this brings it back into sharp focus.  So as with Toggl, I'll try it for a while; then probably pause and take stock and even take a break from it (perhaps that's when I'll pick up Toggl again).  

As with so many skills, there's something about paying sustained attention for a while, and then making a few tweaks, that is hugely helpful.  And as usual, I will report back on this blog if any learning of note arises.