Thursday 27 May 2021

Best Boss/Worst Boss

I have had a few occasions recently to introduce Leadership Teams to the idea of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership, and in particular, the importance of it. 

For this I have been using Genos' 'Best boss/Worst boss exercise.  It is very simple, and very powerful.  I invite people to think about the best boss they have ever had, and then ask them to rate her or him against six observable behaviours each relating to different domains of emotional intelligence. The rating scale is very simple: from 1 - 5, where 1 is 'much less frequently demonstrated than by others' and 5 is  'much more frequently demonstrated than by others.'  When I have asked all six questions, I ask them to total the scores, to arrive at an overall score (between 6 and 30) for their best boss.

I then ask them to write down three words that occur to them, when they consider how that boss made them feel; and finally, the degree to which that boss motivated them to contribute with discretionary effort in their job: to go the extra mile.

Then I repeat the questions, inviting them, this time, to think about their worst ever boss. Then I collect their results, using menti, so that they can see them come up on screen as we go through them: their own and their colleagues' responses. 

Not surprisingly, the results are starkly different for best and worst bosses; and for each question, quite closely clustered amongst all participants. The screenshots with this post are from a recent workshop on this.

There are four points I make that I find really help them to get the importance of this. The first is that how they show up, in terms of the behaviours they demonstrate, has a huge impact on other people. The second is the difference between the feeling words, and the probable impact of that on wellbeing, health and retention.  

The third is the difference in terms of discretionary effort: the bosses demonstrating emotionally intelligent behaviours are getting far more work out of people.  And for the fourth, I am indebted to Jane, my ever-insightful wife. I dry-ran this with Jane and some of my adult children (in part to test the technology - switching between Keynote and then a shared Menti screen is quite challenging for an old gadgee like me...). 

Jane then said: 'Of course the results are different: you asked us to think of our best ever and worst ever bosses.  So what does that prove?' 

Which prompted me to reflect on what it did prove.  And what it proves is that I knew precisely the six questions to ask that would demonstrate, via the scoring, the differences between the behaviours of best bosses and worst bosses: and I knew what those questions would be because of the research on Emotionally Intelligent behaviours. 

So we can say with some confidence that bosses who exhibit a certain range of behaviours more frequently than average will get significantly better results, in terms of staff engagement, wellbeing and voluntary effort, than bosses who demonstrate those behaviours less frequently than the average boss.  And because we are talking about behaviours, these are all things that bosses can learn to do, be observed to do, and be recognised and rewarded for doing.  And that is the fourth and final point I make that really has impact with the leaders with whom I have done this. 

Friday 21 May 2021

When Higher Education Encounters a Stone Wall...

The VC at Essex University has written a very sober post on his blog to staff about the University's mistakes in handling objections to  two speaker invitations, including open apologies to the two academics concerned.  He also writes: I was deeply concerned to read the input into the review from some staff and students who said that they felt constrained to self-censor their speech and activity because of concerns about how we manage the balance between freedom of speech and our commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion. 

When one goes on to read the Report one can see why he is concerned. Akua Reindorf, the Barrister who was commissioned by the University to undertake the independent review, does not pull her punches.

At the heart of her criticisms is the influence that Stonewall, the advocacy and campaigning organisation, has had on the University's Policies and Practices. The University, like many others, in pursuit of its aspirations around diversity, equality and inclusion, has signed up to be a Stonewall Champion, and aspires for continuing Stonewall recognition as an outstanding (Top 100) employer.

Unfortunately, Stonewall does not seem to merit being seen as the Best Practice benchmark that Universities, and many other bodies, assume it to be. 

For example, Reindorf notes that the University's policy on supporting trans and non-binary staff 'is reviewed annually by Stonewall, and its incorrect summary of the law does not appear to have been picked up by them. In my view the policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is.'

Reindorf recommends that: The University should give careful and thorough consideration to the relative benefits and disbenefits of its relationship with Stonewall, bearing in mind the issues raised in this report. In particular, it should consider that this relationship appears to have given University members the impression that gender critical academics can legitimately be excluded from the institution,'  and that 'If the University considers it appropriate to continue its relationship with Stonewall, it should devise a strategy for countering the drawbacks and potential illegalities described above.'

Many other HEIs have signed up as Stonewall Champions. Reindorf's findings suggest a culture of fear that some academics and professional staff experience if they don't wholeheartedly endorse Stonewall's distinctive position; which, it seems to me (as to Reindorf) works precisely against both the academy's wider responsibilities and mission, and more specifically, against a culture of diversity and inclusion. I hope that other institutions follow Reindorf's recommendations; and perhaps with more courage than Essex appears to be doing in this regard.

I blog about this, as in the context of confidential coaching conversations, I have heard academics and senior professional staff talk about things that they consider undiscussable, both with regard to this and other highly politicised issues, where voicing a view that differs from the perceived orthodoxy is seen as highly risky, personally and professionally. I think that is a failure in the academy.

And I nearly didn't blog about it, for fear of being 'outed' as a 'transphobe,' which of course could be very damaging to my professional practice and credibility. But I refuse to be cowed by the very bullying culture that I decry; and I rely on the wisdom of my clients to recognise some important distinctions; for example, between disagreeing with Stonewall and any wider agenda; and indeed, between disagreeing and hating - a line that some activists seem to me very keen to obscure.


With thanks to Rory McKeever and Nsey Benajah for sharing their photos on Unsplash

Friday 14 May 2021

Coaching Evaluation

I attended a very interesting webinar on the evaluation of coaching by Louise Emerson, hosted by the Association for Coaching, this week. I find a lot of things are still buzzing around in my head as a result, so this post is a bit of a 'think-out-loud' as it were, about those.

One is the issue of solely relying on the coachee's perspective when evaluating the value and outcomes of a coaching relationship. Clearly, the coachee's perspective and feedback on his or her experience is very important: necessary but not sufficient.

Louise pointed out that a coachee is not wholly unbiased, nor necessarily the person with the most insight.  In terms of bias, the coachee may well have formed a positive relationship with the coach, which may well colour both what the coachee thinks, and what he or she wishes to say to the coach.  

In terms of insight, coachees are not experts on coaching: it is conceivable that coachees might rate as excellent (because helpful to them) a coaching process that was (from a professional point of view) flawed in various ways. 

At the simplest level, I have, more than once, had the experience of listening to people while they sort out a difficult issue, prompting them with occasional questions, and being awe-struck at the solutions they have created - and then been told 'Thank you!  I always find your advice so useful!'  Whilst I am happy to take the credit, advice is not perhaps the most accurate word; but the process is not important most coachees and they may not attend much to it: it is the outcomes they want.

And there's something else here. Sometimes when coachees have a particular insight, or a shift in attitude, it is easy for them to forget, after a while, that they ever saw the world differently. So whilst the new learning is valuable and embedded, the fact of its being new learning is forgotten. 

So that all suggests that other reference points are needed. One such point may be other people in the coachee's system: colleagues, boss etc.  In some instances that might be appropriate; but of course that needs contracting for (ideally at the start of the process). So that is making me think more about my contracting meetings, and discussing in more detail at that stage how we will evaluate the coaching, both as we go, at the end, and some time afterwards. I already do this, but I think I could do it with more rigour, and in particular, asking who else the coach thinks we could or should include in that evaluation. 

Another reference point is myself, of course. I do have quite a thorough process of reviewing and recording my reflections on my work after each session; so it is about ensuring that I continue to engage with that as an exploratory, learning conversation with myself, not allowing it to slide into a superficial from-filling exercise.

Related to that is supervision. Clearly, this is one of the purposes of my meeting with my various supervisors: to continue to evaluate the effectiveness of my professional practice. However, what I am adding to that agenda is reviewing my approach to evaluation itself, on a regular basis; as well as evaluating the effectiveness of individual sessions or coaching relationships.  That then leads to a rather expanded supervision agenda; for it is not only evaluation, but also things like contracting - and in fact my whole practice framework - that could usefully be reviewed explicitly and regularly.

Something else that occurred to me is that sometimes, at the end of a series of coaching sessions, I am (to be honest) a little disappointed at the coachee's summary of what he or she has learned. I sometimes think they are missing or forgetting learning that seemed really valuable or important. So there is a place for my offering that evaluation at that stage; both as a way of brining it back to the coachee's attention, which is valuable as a learning process; and also as a way of honouring and affirming the work the coachee has done.  Again, I think I could be more rigorous here, and I think that would spring from better note-taking, after each session, so that I can quickly review progress with specific examples to feed back to the coachee.

So, as I said, lots of thoughts to turn into action here: I will discuss these with my supervisor, as I find that one of the helpful ways of holding myself accountable and turning good intentions into action.


With thanks to JĂșnior Ferreira  Charles Deluvio  Aaron Burden for sharing their photos on Unsplash

Friday 7 May 2021

Creating Videos

A couple of people have commented on the video pre-work that I produce, asking how I do it - as it is not the standard Powerpoint with a little picture of me in the corner...

Rather, it tends to have an opening title slide, then me full screen introducing the topic, then intercuts between me and slides (or videos etc), and so on. My hope is that that makes it more engaging.

The process is a bit laborious (and if anyone knows easier ways to do this, I'll be interested). What I do is record the talking head bit (me speaking to camera) using Quicktime. I produce (or to be more honest, Jane produces) my slides in Keynote, and I then make recording of them (also in Keynote), synced to the Quicktime talking head movie, so all the transitions occur at the right times, and save that as a movie.

Then I create a new project in iMovie and import the talking head and the slides. From there it is relatively easy to edit between the two, swapping between the slides and me; and then top and tailing it with titles, music and so on.  And the result, I like to think, is quite professional.

One of the things I've learned along the way is not to be seduced by the huge array of options (particularly in iMovie). Just as in typography (when they say you should have no more than three typefaces on any one page, apparently) so in movie making: simple is better.  So I always use the same transition in iMovie (swap), which seems to me to work well, as denoting a change in topic, or timing, or perspective. Likewise, I use the same transition in Keynote and the same way of swapping between slides and talking head.  And, as I have mentioned before, I have invested in a reasonable microphone and camera  (these are, in fact, a Rode NT microphone (which we cheerfully refer to as the rodent, for obvious reasons) and a Razer Kiyo camera.)

S0 here's an example: the introduction to one of the programmes I have filmed in this way, to give you a sense of what I'm on about here.