Invest in yourself – don’t wait for your boss to do it!

The Letter - Judith Holmes Drewry

The Letter - Judith Holmes Drewry

Once the domain of the CEO or senior manager, I am seeing people at all levels in small, medium and large organisations coming to me for coaching and paying for it themselves.  Why?  Because they recognise that to survive at work they need to invest in themselves!  So what’s going on?

Today’s workplace is fluid.  One day you are a highly valued employee, the next you are fighting to keep your job.  Change is everywhere and we need to continue to refresh our skills and bring new approaches to the work we do – we need to add value, generate new business, innovate and keep the organisation we work for profitable and valued. 

There was a time when an employee may have expected to receive training, professional development and opportunities for growth from their employer, but in today’s competitive workplace there isn’t always the time or the money to support these ambitions.  There are a number of reasons for this:

  • A small business may be fighting to survive – investing in their employees at present may be a step too far
  • Uncertainty about the future may be making some businesses reluctant to invest in their people
  • A small business may feel that investment in skills development simply isn’t a priority
  • A large organisation facing reduced profits or funding shortages may not be able to justify investing in developing their people

So it may be time to take the matter into your own hands.  And taking time to step outside the workplace to consider your current position, your own development needs and how they may be met could be a smart move.  Here are a few examples of where coaching and mentoring can help with your own development:

  • There has been a change of direction in the leadership of your organisation, which leaves you wondering how you can make an impact and add value
  • You are trying to survive in a shrinking organisation where colleagues have less time available to support each other
  • You are looking for a role in a different industry or with a different employer and need some help in preparing for this
  • You are in a new role and you feel that support from someone outside your organisation would benefit you and improve your performance
  • You are facing redundancy and need help to work out your next steps so that you can achieve financial stability in the short term and plan for the longer term
  • You have work related problems and don’t know how to manage them
  • It may be time to look at your own wellbeing and what you want from life

Having your own coach means you have access to someone who will help you to recognise and build on your own skills and also identify those skills which need developing.  A good coach will listen, ask questions, challenge you and give you time to reflect, draw you own conclusions, set your own goals and help you to achieve them.  Making decisions and facing challenges can be hard and sometimes lonely.  And sometimes dissatisfaction in a role may be because the cultural fit of the place where you work is no longer right - their values and aspirations may not be the same as yours. 

Spending time talking through your options with someone who has no connection with your home or work life can be hugely beneficial and give you time to think and plan how to make those important next steps.

If you’d like more information about how coaching can enable you to take control of your own personal development, then get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help.

Izzy Ixer, Director and Principal Consultant, Blue Pebble Coaching

 

 

 

90 year old talks about resilience

Disused building at Orford Ness, Suffolk - but it's still standing

Disused building at Orford Ness, Suffolk - but it's still standing

By the time most of you read this, the person I was talking with this morning will be 90 years old.  I’ll call her Ann.  Over a cup of tea I asked her a question:

“Why do you think some people are more resilient than others at managing life’s challenges?”

Ann’s answer was very interesting and I’ve captured her responses here:

Understanding and building resilience starts very early in life

 When you are young you hear conversations around you, almost without realising what you are hearing.  You see the way people behave and the way they react to situations.  Friends and relatives around you discuss life issues, the effect they have on people and the way some people manage to get through these issues and overcome adversity.  The culture you find yourself in is a powerful influence and helps you to realise what is possible and achievable in life and how your own resources form a key part of your success.

One of the great influences Ann is talking about is what in today’s language we would call role models.  These are people in your life who you look up to and see as the kind of person you would like to be.  We cam probably all recall someone from our childhood who we remember being influenced by in a positive way and thinking that we would like to be like them when we grow up.     

Observe and take time to reflect on what you see

Ann talked about observing the behaviours you see and “keeping your mouth shut”, which I interpret as taking time to reflect quietly on what you have heard and seen rather than broadcasting it immediately.  The way people tackle life is a great source of learning and this learning forms the bedrock of how we develop over the years.  We start to form a view of whether or not we agree with the way the person went about managing their personal challenges.  And our view may change over time as our own experience of life broadens.

Finding role models is not just for childhood and teenage years though – it can continue throughout your life.  Observing people who you consider to be successful and learning how they got where they are, what survival skills they have and how they sharpen these skills depending on the role they are in is a great way of reflecting on your own strengths and weaknesses.  What is it about them that enabled them to secure that role?  And what can you learn from them?

Absorb your experiences – good and bad

I find Ann’s word “absorb” interesting.  And I think it’s at the heart of our journey towards building resilience.  Good and bad experiences will happen.  We will be caught out one day if we haven’t prepared properly.  We may receive unexpected congratulations and thanks for a job well done.  We are likely to find ourselves “no longer required” in a role, which we’ve given our heart and soul to creating.  An exciting new job or promotion is likely to come our way at some stage in our work life.  The organisation we work for will change into something different with new processes to adapt to or a re-structured team to work with.  These things will happen. 

So it’s a useful strategy to try and accept all experiences equally and to learn from them.  When things are not so good, could we have done something differently and influenced the outcome?  When things went well, how did it happen?  What did we do to prepare ourselves, advertise ourselves, skill ourselves up or influence others?  Take time to accept the situation, absorb the experience, take the learning and be prepared for your next challenge.

Conclusion

Looking at Ann’s 3 observations about resilience, there seems to be one underlying thread.  The words she uses: observe, reflect and absorb.  These have something in common – they are all aspects of the art of disciplining the mind.  Developing the ability to manage the activity of the mind, to speed it up, slow it down, focus it and rest it is a core skill set.  We hear about Mindfulness, meditation, Yoga and other techniques for quietening and mastering the mind.  And there is plenty of research out there on the impact of early influences on the development of resilience in children as well as useful resources to help us learn how to develop our resilience as we grow older too.  And one thing is certain – resilience and adaptability are key skills for today’s world of work.

I enjoyed my cup of tea with Ann and I thanked her for sharing her insights with me.  Inspired by what she said, I have found some further reading sources, which I hope will help you as you look for ways to understand and build your own personal resilience.

The Science of Resilience

Why some children can thrive despite adversity

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/15/03/science-resilience

Harvard Business review: 5 ways to Boost your Resilience at Work by Rich Fernandez, June 27 2016

https://wisdomlabs.com/5-ways-to-boost-your-resilience-at-work/

Izzy Ixer, Blue Pebble Coaching

 

3-2-1 Bluebells!

One of Spring’s greatest sights will soon be upon us – carpets of brilliantly coloured Bluebells appearing in our woodlands!  Their glory is short-lived, as they must make the most of the sunlight, which falls on the soil before the trees above them burst into leaf and block their source of light.  They seize their moment and come into bloom from mid-April onwards.  And over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend you can go out and find them in local woodlands.

So how well do we prepare ourselves for our opportunity to shine?  Are you setting time aside now to understand yourself better, reflect on your achievements and think about what your next steps may be?  If the opportunity you’ve always dreamed of appeared tomorrow, how well would you present yourself and your skills?  Are you ready to seize your moment?

These Bluebell bulbs have put in plenty of preparation ahead of their grand display.  Seeds, which were produced the previous June, have scattered and germinated and developed into flower bulbs.  Dormant from July onwards, the bulbs have soaked up nutrition from the soil around them for months and began to grow underground in January.  Depending on weather conditions, their first shoots appeared in February and developed leaves in March.

Making time to build up your skills and knowledge is time well spent.  It’s important to step back from your day-to-day commitments and consider what you would like to do next and how you will prepare for your next challenge.  It is common today to find ourselves facing significant challenges, which we may not have foreseen.  It happens in our work life, our home life, as business leaders and as human beings who care about each other.  We need to assess our strengths, and our level of resilience in the face of new circumstances.  We need to look carefully at our skill sets and often develop new ones fast.

Regular coaching sessions will help you to:

  • Put time aside to reflect
  • Consider your next steps
  • Understand yourself better
  • Set yourself achievable goals
  • Get help and support in achieving your goals

At Blue Pebble Coaching we work with employees of large and small organisations, charities and business leaders and owners, supporting them to understand themselves and what drives them and to become more adaptable and resilient.  

So when you go out and about looking for Bluebells at the weekend, spare a thought for your own personal development and take your first step investing time in yourself.

Izzy Ixer, Blue Pebble Coaching, www.bluepebblecoaching.co.uk

You can discover great places to go Bluebell-hunting on the Wildlife Trust’s website http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/dazzled-by-bluebells

The Bluebell Railway Walks website has detailed information about how Bluebells grow http://www.bluebellrailwaywalks.co.uk/bluebells.php

 

 

Face your business challenges head-on with coaching!

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What do you do when your organisation is facing major challenges and you don't have a budget to develop your people?  How do you get people to step up to new roles without sending them on expensive training courses?  The answer to these questions may lie closer to home than you think.  

I've been speaking with a number of small businesses lately and this is exactly the situation in which they find themselves.  Pressure to manage changes in legislation, develop new markets and anticipate the impact of Brexit on their current markets is eating up their energy.  And with many people fearful of change and not always sure how they will cope it's a testing time for organisations of all types and sizes.  Have you ever wondered how some businesses survive?

Learning by example, developing new skills on the job and asking for advice and guidance have been traditional ways of getting to grips with a new role. Experienced business owners and managers sharing their knowledge and encouraging less experienced employees to step up to new challenges is nothing new.  These approaches are all forms of mentoring. And if you've ever asked someone how to do something and got a sense that they are drawing the answers from you rather than telling you what to do, then you've experienced coaching too. 

The companies I spoke to work very much along these lines.  Sharing knowledge, working together on problems, supporting each other and accepting a level of challenge from each other are the norm if they are to survive and thrive with little help.

However, once an organisation grows it may become more structured, less informal, more target driven and the Finance Director will have a keen eye on the bottom line.  As structures become more rigid, some of the knowledge sharing, which the organisation previously benefitted from, can fall by the wayside.  The "coaching culture" or mutual support, which was once so strong, can become less apparent as people compete with each other to succeed and improve their position.

So what is a coaching culture?  How can it help your business?  And how can you create it?

“Coaching is a predominant style of managing and working together, and where a commitment to grow the organisation is embedded in a parallel commitment to grow the people in the organisation”.   These are the words of Clutterbuck and Megginson, in their book 'Making coaching work: creating a coaching culture'.  

Here are some real life examples of situations in a business where there is resistance to change and where coaching and mentoring can help to grow people as well as growing the organisation:

The culture of an organisation

Where an organisation is generally resistant to change and does not see the value of it, sponsoring and committing to a coaching and mentoring programme will help to promote and encourage people to stretch and challenge themselves

Individuals feeling threatened by the need to change

This sometimes happens when those who are leading the change have not engaged people’s energies.  These leaders are focussed on making things happen and can benefit from coaching and time to think about how they raise the energy of the colleagues and employees they depend on to make it happen.

Lack of understanding about why a change needs to happen

The nature of the change may be an issue or the process of change may be an issue.  Employees may not understand the benefits and need to be engagedthrough coaching conversations and encouraging feedback.  They probably have ideas which will help.

Lack of communication or trust

People inside and beyond the business aren’t seeing the benefits of making the changes, so confidence in the need for change falters.  It's important to celebrate achievements and share success and get everyone involved.

Employees fearing the unknown

If successes go unrecognised it may reinforce a culture of being risk averse.  Businesses take risks in order to evolve and grow and a well supported coaching and mentoring approach can help to raise skills and confidence in the ability of the organisation to adapt.

If any of these scenarios look familiar to you, perhaps you should consider encouraging and building a culture of coaching in your business?  And maybe you can identify some people who are natural mentors in your organisation – those with influence and a way of supporting others and introducing them to new challenges? 

At Blue Pebble Coaching we have experience of running workshops to help you get started on introducing a coaching culture into your workplace.  A series of interactive, practical activities highlight the value of coaching and how it can get results, giving you the tools you need to get started. 

During our workshop you will:

  • Discover what motivates different generations of your employees and why some people seem less engaged than others
  • Learn how the coaching process supports setting and achieving goals
  • Recognise the difference between coaching and mentoring and how to use them effectively in your business to get results
  • Understand how to lead a successful coaching session and follow it up

Investing a few hours to discover how a culture of coaching could help your business may be one of the best investments you make.

Contact info@bluepebblecoaching.co.uk to find out more or call 01473 625115 and we’ll be happy to visit you and talk about how we can help.

Izzy Ixer

Director and Principal Consultant, Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

March 2017

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5 ways to keep calm

Yoga is hugely popular today.  There are many different styles and there is a great choice for anyone looking to take up the practice of Yoga.

When I started to practise Yoga I was in my early teens.  I was at the stage where I was curious and wanted to find out about things which were different or unusual.  I had a wonderful Aunt who lived in London and was in touch with cool people who went to India and visited ashrams.  There were books in her flat and she lent me some of them.  My inspiration was “A Search in Secret India” by Paul Brunton.

In my late teens I started teaching Yoga and over the years practising Yoga has become so much a part of my life I don’t even think about how to fit it in.  It’s like cleaning my teeth or putting the wash on.  It’s there in my daily routine.

Alongside my Yoga teaching, I have spent much of my time encouraging people to adapt to new circumstances.  I have worked on writing software, implementing new systems, transforming services and developing strategy.  Most of these functions involve finding ways of encouraging people to do things differently.  And customers or the people who work for you are not always enthusiastic about it!  Many are fearful of change and can become upset, argumentative and angry.  In the workplace today we find ourselves on the receiving end of these emotions as the pressure on us all increases.

I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on my own way of managing pressure in the workplace.  I believe that I know what my own state of quietness is.  This has been developed over the years through my regular Yoga practice.  I can therefore assess how far away from that state of quietness I have moved at a given time.  Armed with this awareness, the decision I have to make is this - how do I return to my quiet state?  What do I have to do?  What do I have to stop doing?  Where can I save some energy and effort so that I can create space for quietness?  How do I bring my life into balance again? These are tough questions and the answers depend on making clear decisions about what’s important to me.

And here’s the thing.  We sometimes blame work, home or relationships for causing us to feel pressured.  We are inclined to think that by ditching some of our commitments or getting out of the workplace these things will disappear.  And that life will become lovely.  For some people, eliminating some of these sources of stress and anxiety can work well.  Though not everyone is free to walk away from work or relationships.  The bottom line is that if you are the kind of person who is inclined to feel pressured, then placing yourself in a different situation may simply lead you to feel pressured about different things in your new world.  And you may still not feel calm and quiet!

I believe that you need to understand what your own sense of quietness is.  What does it feel like to be calm and still, to discipline yourself, to put aside the flurry of thoughts in your head and to be truly focussed?  You might find you can achieve this through a Yoga practice or it could be by going for a walk, baking, playing a game of golf, reading a book or working in the garden.  Take stock of how you feel when you have truly absorbed yourself in an activity you find calming.  Now you know what your state of quietness is.  It is the baseline you need in order to compare your state at any given time.  It is this quiet state that you will strive to find again and again when you most need it.

Tension manifests in our bodies as well as our minds. Raised shoulders, a stiff neck, an inflexible spine can be signs of tension building up.  Your breath can become short and sit high in the chest when you are stressed.  Releasing physical tension and working on slowing your breath can help.

So how can you carry your state of quietness around with you?  And get back to it when it slips away?

Here are 5 techniques to help you:

  • Master some simple stretches to relieve tension from your neck, shoulders and back
  • Discover what your state of quietness is
  • Get to know your breath and recognise when it’s changing
  • Practise simple breath control techniques to slow your breath
  • Identify opportunities in your day to check in with your state of quietness – how far away from quiet are you?

Here are some Yoga techniques which you may find helpful for releasing tension http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/six-stretches-to-do-at-work/

These simple steps will help you to become more aware of yourself and how you react to situations.  And armed with this awareness you become empowered to make the changes you need to make to stay calm, whatever life throws at you!

To learn more about managing pressure in your life contact info@bluepebblecoaching.co.uk

Izzy Ixer, Blue Pebble Coaching
January 2017

5 ways to survive a training course

New year, new you – and maybe you will be going on a training course or attending a workshop?  This could either be for work or for your own interest and whichever it is you may find yourself feeling slightly apprehensive! 

A couple of months ago I overheard two people talking about a training course they were traveling to.  They were clearly both anxious about it and felt concerned about the course and what would be expected of them.  They were worried about being on time and already nervous about introducing themselves at the beginning of the course, which is something many people fear.

If you only attend training courses occasionally, then there are some easy steps you can take to build your confidence by planning ahead. 

Here are a 5 things you can do:

Dress correctly

The way you dress for training courses matters.  We all know that first impressions count, so it’s worth getting it right so that you feel confident from the start.  If the dress code isn’t stated, you can contact the organiser beforehand and find out what’s expected.  Smart/casual dress is popular, but you may feel awkward dressed like this if everyone else arrives in suits or dresses down. 

Plan your travel

Allow plenty of time for traveling.  It’s better to arrive early and go for a short walk or have a coffee than to arrive late.  Information about travel times is available from apps and websites and it’s worth checking if there are any events on which may impact these times.  Allow plenty of time for finding somewhere to park and if you’re traveling by public transport check and re-check your journey times.  Traveling with a friend is a great way to feel more confident.  And if you are really uncertain about where you are going, it’s worth doing a practice run!

Find out more about the course facilitator or presenter

Learning works best when the group shares knowledge and interacts well.  Your joining instructions may provide more information about the course content and the course facilitator.  Go online and see what else you can discover.  This gives you a chance to check on any technical terms or professional “jargon” and work out beforehand what it means.  You can learn something interesting about the subject and maybe even prepare a question, so if you find you are on the spot you have something prepared which you can say or ask.

Decide what you want from the course

We all have different reasons for attending courses.  Apart from learning new skills and gaining knowledge, there are opportunities for networking, friendship, professional development and a host of other benefits.  You may find it helpful to think about what you would like from the course or workshop yourself.  This could be specific information, clarification on something you’d like to understand better, an opportunity to study further or a desire to connect with others in order to gain support.  Thinking about your own aims will help to shape the way you interact in the sessions and will keep you engaged during the course.  And you may be asked at the beginning of the course what your own personal objectives are, so it’s another bit of preparation which will help you to feel in control and confident on the day!

Prepare your introduction

Sometimes known as the “creeping death” the start of most group sessions includes the opportunity to introduce yourself.  Some course facilitators are kind and pair people up then ask them to introduce each other.  But whichever way it goes, you’ll need to have a few things to say by way of introduction.  You may not have too much difficulty with your name, but a job title and role can be a little trickier, especially in a mixed group where your words and descriptions may not help others to understand what you do.  Think about this beforehand and decide how you want to be known and practise a clear way of describing what you do.  And you can always add in something interesting like an unusual hobby to spice things up!

And finally

Confidence can be a fragile thing.  When life is going well and we feel on top of our game, then we achieve the things we want and this builds our confidence for the next challenge.  It’s a good feeling.  However, if a few things start to slip, if we run out of time, if we don’t prepare adequately then we can get caught out and this make a dent in our confidence.  Stay positive!  It happens to us all.  The question is what to do about it? 

My clients tell me that setting aside time to reflect and prioritise what is really important in their lives is one of the most rewarding things that they can do.  Clarity comes from giving yourself space in your busy life.  We believe that “doing” is important.  And it is.  But "not doing" for short periods of time is even more valuable.  So maybe one of the small changes you can  make for 2017 is sometimes to do a little less.   Now there’s something to reflect on.

Izzy Ixer MCMI. Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

Coaching and Mentoring in Woodbridge, Ipswich, Saxmundham in Suffolk

 

It's National Mentorng day – think before you jump in!

As today is National Mentoring Day, so it’s a great time to look at what mentoring is and to consider some of the factors, which can make for a great mentoring relationship.

Finding yourself a mentor isn’t always easy.  You need to feel confident that the person you are working with understands you and the challenges you are facing.  You need to know that they can strike the right balance between sharing information, knowledge and opportunities with you and also leaving you the space to absorb what has been shared during the mentoring session.

A skilled mentor recognises the importance of a reflective learning practice.  This means allowing time to assimilate information, making it your own and understanding how new skills and information can be put to good use.  These are the keys to a successful mentoring relationship.  When you find yourself a mentor, then you may find it helpful to keep a diary and to capture ideas and self-observations – this will be a great resource to reflect on your journey.

Demonstration of block printing

Demonstration of block printing

There are 6 commonly recognised factors which, when well managed, contribute to the success of the mentoring relationship.  They are well worth bearing in mind before, during and after the mentoring relationship has ended.

Purpose

The purpose of the mentoring arrangement needs to be clarified so that the mentor brings the right skills, experience and opportunities to the relationship.  The purpose may subtly change over time, so checking that both parties are still happy with the relationship is an important step in the process.  One of the purposes of mentoring is to bring to the person being mentored (the mentee) access to contacts, who may be influential in supportingtheir development.   This important aspect of mentoring needs to be discussed early in the relationship.

Communication

The way the mentoring session works will need to be tailored to suit the preferences of the person being mentored.  Some people prefer a face-to-face relationship while others may feel more comfortable in groups.  Some mentoring can take place online or by telephone.  If the purpose of the mentoring exercise is to induct and encourage a new group of recruits into an organisation, for example, group mentoring can be a powerful way of bringing new recruits on board and maintaining their enthusiasm for the organisation after the initial excitement of the new job has started to diminish.  In the early stages of the relationship the mentee will spend much of the time listening and questioning to clearly ascertain needs and support the formulation of goals.

Statue of an elephant

Statue of an elephant

Trust

A good match between the mentor and the menteee will enable the relationship to start well.  The presentation of the mentor, the way they use their voice and their gestures all have an impact.  The mentor must be trustworthy, maintain confidentiality and have integrity if the relationship is to work.  Successful mentoring happens when the relationship between the mentor and the mentee is well founded and a good rapport has been developed.  Unlike coaching, mentors bring their own experience into the relationship, which makes it a more personal contract.  Confidence must be respected on both sides.

Process

The pace and frequency of the sessions need to be agreed and moderated as needed.  Time to explore goals and needs should be set aside at the start of therelationship to allow for the development of goals and for clarification about the way they will be achieved.  Th eperson being mentored may choose to have a number of different mentors and the process of working with other mentors may give rise to complexity in terms of goal setting and achievement of milestones.

Progress

An honest way of discussing progress against goals and providing feedback needs to be in place.  A mentoring plan with regular reviews in place is a good way of setting this up.  Milestones need to be celebrated and a time will come when the mentor has learned as much as they feel they can from their mentor.  The mentoring process needs to allow for this to happen in a planned and non-threatening way.

And finally ...

If you keep these things in mind you will soon discover the benefits of mentoring.  And remember – mentors can get just as much out of the relationship as the people they are supporting.  Reflecting on your own successes and failures and how you faced up to your challenges will reveal much about your own progress through life and can strengthen your own sense of self.

 

If you are interested in establishing mentoring in your organisation then get in touch with us.  We’re here to help.

 

Izzy Ixer

Director and Principal Consultant

Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

www.bluepebblecoaching.co.uk

Be a tourist in your own workplace!

As you prepare for "back to school" week and the return to work, it can be difficult to adjust to the routine of the working week after a Summer break.  And you may not be looking forward to the daily timetable and diary commitments.

So perhaps it's worth reflecting for a moment on what made your Summer break so exciting, relaxing, refreshing?  How much of the value you gained was about where you went and how much of it was about your approach, your attitude and your state of mind while you were there?

Typically as a tourist, we might experience a sense of excitement when we visit somewhere different.  We may find we are more receptive to doing something new and keen to discover something different.  Perhaps we're more open-minded as we try new ways of traveling, navigating new locations, learning about a new country or a part of the country in which we live.  In a new environment we need to think differently and be more observant as we navigate different routes and find new places.

Think of the way you felt when you tried something different to eat or drank a pint of the local beer!  Remember how it felt to look around at the scenery, a sunset or a sea view.  Recall how clear and uncluttered your mind felt at that moment.

So why not go back to work with the mindset of the tourist?  Try setting aside your habitual responses to situations and start listening carefully to others instead of pre-judging what they are likely to say.  Perhaps you can take a look with fresh eyes at the place where you work and notice some of the interesting features of it, which you would normally take for granted. Try a different way of getting to work is this is possible - walk part of the route or cycle to work.  If you are a hot-desker, try sitting somewhere different and if you have a regular desk, maybe think about swapping with someone if you can.  Take something different to work for your lunch or find somewhere new to get your sandwich.

Breaking our habitual responses and making small changes can be refreshing and keeping fresh and creative may be easier than you think.  As I was finishing writing this blog I came across an interesting article about creativity from Oishii Creative, who are based in Los Angeles.  They talk about breaking habits and becoming receptive to different approaches and new ideas.  They say that this is part of their philosophy for maintaining their creative mindset - you can read their article here:

http://www.oishiicreative.com/get-lost-how-thinking-like-a-tourist-can-reset-your-creativity/

So if you are going back to school or work, try thinking like a tourist, keeping an uncluttered mind and opening yourself up to new experiences as they arise!

Izzy Ixer
Director and Principal Consultant
Blue Pebble Coaching

28 August 2016

 

Uncertainty – the best way to keep ahead of the game?

One of my favourite sayings is that it’s easy to be a leader when you have a map.  Real leadership is about leading when there is no map.  And that’s exactly what today’s leaders are all about.  In a world where there seems to be no clear vision, no clear path and an imperative to show leadership skills what does today’s leader do?

I recently read an article in The Guardian by Stuart Jeffries.  Called “The New Age of Uncertainty”.  

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/new-age-of-uncertainty-brexit-trump-future-world-flux

He talks about the current situation where so many factors have changed on the political, international and economic stage that there is uncertainty and therefore a lack of confidence in the future.

When the future is uncertain we tend to think about ways of creating certainty.  In this scenario the analysis of what may or may not happen becomes an overwhelming task, resulting in what is sometimes known as analysis paralysis – the inability to make a decision because the information available to make a logical decision is incomplete.

So who is best prepared to lead in these circumstances?  Stuart references the work of Jonathan Fields, who suggests that those who thrive on uncertainty and are the ones who survive under these circumstances.  He says: ”You can train your mind to not only handle the unease that comes from having to consistently act without having all the answers, but embrace and invite it as a signpost that what you’re doing matters.“ 

There are times when life is full of uncertainty and you develop the skills needed to be adaptable and versatile.  You accept being in a state of uncertainty.  There are also times in your life when things can become more settled and these skills become less important.  However, today’s leader needs to “learn to dance with the unknown” as Fields describes it and be prepared for the unexpected.  They need to develop resources and decision–making skills, which allow them to provide direction when the future is unclear and they are the people who will grasp the opportunities which uncertainty presents.

This is a good time to develop your leadership skills by strengthening your inner confidence and your sense of what is right.  It’s time to absorb news and information about what is going on in the world and make time be still and reflect.  This is the time to hone your leadership skills and become a leader who is comfortable with uncertainty.

References:

The New Age of Uncertainty by Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian 27 July 2016

Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

Izzy Ixer,  30 July 2016

What's your learning style?

As we move into Spring we may be looking for new challenges in our personal or our work life.  So maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at ourselves and consider the way we like to learn?

Many of us will have come across Honey and Mumford’s model of learning styles, which was developed in 1986 and identified 4 learning styles, which have become the basis on which change and learning programmes are built.  These are:

Activists, who learn by doing and getting their hands dirty.  They like to dive in with both feet first. They have an open-minded approach to learning, involving themselves fully and without bias in new experiences.

Theorists, who like to understand the theory behind the actions and need models, concepts and facts in order to engage in the learning process. They prefer to analyse and synthesise, drawing new information into a systematic and logical 'theory'.

Pragmatists, who need to be able to see how to put the learning into practice in the real world. Abstract concepts and games are of limited use.  They are experimenters, trying out new ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work.

Reflectors, who learn by observing and thinking about what happened and may prefer to watch from the sidelines. They view experiences from a number of different perspectives, collecting data and taking the time to work towards an appropriate conclusion.

So how do you prefer to learn?  Which methods suit you?  And how do you reflect on your learning and incorporate it into your workstyle?

Here is a summary of preferred learning styles, their characteristics and the activities a learner will find most helpful.  You may like to think about situations where you feel you have learned well and were able to absorb information and make use of it in your daily life, your work or your hobbies.  And it’s worth remembering that although we may have a preferred learning style we can still learn in other ways too. 

Activist

Learns from experiencing new things and enjoys a challenge.  Dislikes following detailed instructions and being passive in a situation.

Brainstorming, problem solving, group discussion, puzzles, competitions, role-play

Theorist

Prefers a structured format or framework and needs opportunities to explore ideas, concepts and the relationship between them.  May be uncomfortable with unstructured activities where feelings and emotions are involved.

Models, statistics, stories, quotes, background information, applying theories

Pragmatist

Appreciates trying things out and needs to see that activities have practical relevance to their work.  Needs to see that his/her efforts have practical benefits.  

Time to think about how to apply learning in reality, case studies, problem solving, discussion

Reflector

Needs to assimilate information before acting and can undertake research then produce reports.  Learns well from listening and observing.   

Paired discussions, self analysis questionnaires, personality questionnaires, time out, observing activities, feedback from others, coaching, interviews

So, as you consider new challenges for the Spring or as you start to think about your personal development, you may like to reflect on the kind of opportunities which will work best for you – and you could even consider trying something different.

Izzy Ixer

Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

Are you keeping your employees engaged?

Do you see your employees as the ambassadors of your business?  And are you satisfied that they are committed to the vision and goals you have for your business?

In the 2013 Harvard Business Review report “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance”, 71% of respondents said that employee engagement was very important to achieving overall business success.

Achieving true employee engagement is a tough call in a pressured organisation.  It needs more than publishing metrics or targets, enforcing processes and drawing up plans.  It relies on human interactions, which happen day to day.  It needs clarity and leadership, which must be visible in the workplace on a regular basis.  

Today’s organisation is likely to use coaching and mentoring as part of a structured organisational plan, underpinned by personal development plans.  Here are some examples of where coaching and mentoring has been used to build a high performing organisation:

Staff induction - Bringing new recruits up to speed and helping them engage effectively with the organisation

Staff retention - Developing skills and capabilities to retain key staff

Team building - Team coaching is used to help people recognise and agree on common goals when teams are merged

Change management - Teams and individuals are coached to support them in new roles

Re-structures - Team and individual coaching enables the new structure to settle in and deliver value more quickly

Periods of evolution in the organisation - The organisation grows and individuals need help in adapting to change and growth.  This is supported through coaching and mentoring.

In sourcing, outsourcing and mergers - Bringing people into new structures where they must perform quickly is a common challenge in business.  Coaching and mentoring can kick-start the right habits from the outset.

Changes in process - Where teams must adopt new business processes to improve service, coaching to adapt to the new environment supports quicker update of new processes.

Generate leaders - A growing organisation needs leaders, who can provide clarity and direction to the workforce.  Coaching and mentoring can help to foster talented leaders capable of fulfilling these roles.

Support leaders - Leaders of organisations need time to reflect on their strategies and leadership style.  Coaching is a vital part of the personal development plan for leaders.

Early signs of poor engagement from your teams may be an increase in staff absence, poor morale or lack of commitment.  Timely coaching and mentoring interventions can be an important step in re-engaging and enthusing staff.

For more information on coaching and mentoring and why it should form part of your employee engagement plans, visit www.bluepebblecoaching.co.uk.

Izzy Ixer, Director and Principal Consultant

Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

 

New Year, New You!

When we look at our personal development, it's useful to have some plans and goals in mind.   There may be skills that need developing or you may want to start preparing for a new opportunity by dusting down your CV and updating your achievements.  Sometimes it's hard to make time for these things when work and personal life are busy.  However, here is what Plato the Philosopher said:  “The beginning is the most important part of the work” and it's true that once you get started on a task and engage your mind in it fully, you begin to feel you are succeeding already.

Another idea, which you may find helpful as you look to the New Year, is that: “You raze the old to raise the new”.   The author Justina Chen said this.  The message here is that you sometimes need to let go of something you are accustomed to in order to move on in a new direction.  Anybody who has experienced significant change in their personal or work life will recognise that there comes a point when we need to let go of old habits and routines and embrace new ones in order to grow and develop.  We sometimes need to do this even if we feel fearful of the next steps.

As a coach, it is interesting for me to reflect on the effectiveness of coaching in supporting personal development and growth.  The Chartered Management Institute defines coaching as:

“a method of helping people to develop their self-awareness and their skills and knowledge to improve their job performance or personal growth. Coaching may be undertaken informally by managers as part of their day-today responsibility to develop their team, or under the guidance of a professional coach. Coaching is about questioning and enabling the individual to identify gaps in their skills or knowledge and to plan and support them in addressing these through a range of work-based activities.“

I am always delighted to see the results of my coaching sessions – I notice my clients starting to recognise their own skills and abilities and confidently set their own direction and goals!  This usually happens at around session 4 or 5, which is why I always recommend a series of 6 coaching sessions initially.

 2015 was an exciting year for me – I qualified with the CMI as a coach and set up my Blue Pebble Coaching business.  Measured Brilliance have built a fantastic website for me and in 2016 I’ll be adding more blog entries and video content to the website, which I hope you will find a useful resource.  Have a look at www.bluepebblecoaching.co.uk and let me know what you think.  And do pass on my details to your friends and colleagues too!  I’d love to hear about your own achievements and successes, so do feel free to drop me a message through my website or by email at izzy.ixer@bluepebblecoaching.co.uk

Just a reminder that my coaching services are also available through the Suffolk Coaching and Mentoring Partnership (SCMP) and their website is at https://www.coachingandmentoringpartnership.co.uk.  Why not check and see if your organization is a member?  And if you have team members who would benefit from coaching in order to improve their skills and performance at work, they can register on the website and find me through that route too.

So, wishing you every success for 2016 and I look forward to hearing about your news!

 

Izzy Ixer MCMI

Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

Don’t make New Year Resolutions!

This is the time when we think about the year ahead and begin to feel under pressure to make New Year commitments or resolutions.  A quick look at Twitter reveals that recording your first Youtube video, adopting a more competitive attitude to sport or gearing yourself up to win a prize on Amazon are some of the things people are resolving to pay attention to in 2016. 

Some of us see the New Year as an opportunity to set ourselves a new challenge and get fired up to achieve something great.  To the less competitive among us, this may be too much.  Perhaps we need to simply look at a new way of doing things – walking a little more, eating a little less, finding a new author to read – and leave the big things to others.  But how do we decide?  And how do we avoid making rash resolutions at the last minute, which fail within the first few weeks of the New Year?

Our own time is a precious resource.  We need to think carefully and prioritise how we use it.  So don’t make New Year resolutions until you’ve thought about it carefully and worked out how you really want to use your time and energy!

As a coach I am used to asking people questions about what they would like to achieve and what resources they need to make things happen.  One of the best self-coaching tools we can all use to see where we need to apply effort in our lives is a spidergram or a mind-map.  These techniques allow us to work from the big things in our life, such as our health, work, leisure activities, personal skills, family life and to explore and capture our needs and ambitions in each of those areas.  Representing these as a picture, by using a series of interconnected images, words, shapes and lines gives us a visual image of these different areas of our lives and helps us to look at where our efforts can really add value and move us forward in achieving our goals.  There’s a link to more information about spidergrams, mind mapping and the difference between them at the end of my blog.

There’s software available to help you and I’ve included a link to some of the options.  However, a pencil, an eraser and a large piece of paper are all you need.  Write your name in a circle at the centre of the page.  Draw circles for around this for the main areas of your life, such as your health, and connect them to you.  You can branch into more detail to show the things you are achieving and the things you’d like to achieve.   Use  pictures and colours if you’d like to.  The process of drawing your diagram can be a therapeutic exercise in itself - rather like clearing out and organising a cluttered cupboard!  As your diagram progresses you will see that some areas have a lot of activity around them and others less so.  Use this information to decide where you feel you need to spend your time in the coming year in order to balance your life and achieve your goals.  You can also see where there are gaps in your life where there is little or no activity.  For example, is most of your effort focussed around work?  And if so, what could you do to balance this?

Once you have a good enough version of your diagram in front of you, take a good look and use it to decide how you can prioritise your time in the coming year.  Then make a carefully considered New Year’s resolution!  Check back to your diagram occasionally as things may change as the year goes on.  And remember that a carefully considered commitment for the New Year is worth more than a hasty decision as the clock chimes midnight! 

Happy New Year to you all!

Links to resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/best-mind-mapping-tools/

Izzy Ixer

Director and Principal Consultant

Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HR data or people – where to focus our energy?

What a great People Management Industry Insight webinar this morning!  The subject was “How can HR lead the way for growing companies?”

With speakers from Talktalk, the Cass Business School and Workday as well as the Editor of People Management the speakers talked about the power of integrated HR systems.  The holy grail of entering data only once into the HR system, confident that it will be consistent across the HR functions and provide everyone with a clear view across the organisation continues to be the goal for many organisations.

Talktalk’s case study illustrated the way they had been able to support a move from fire-fighting operational activity as they grew rapidly to achieve a position 4 years on, where strategic thinking drives the organisation.

For me as a coach, the clear message coming from the discussion was that an organisation may design and execute a transformation programme which gives them world class HR data, which they can mine and interrogate to inform their strategy.  However if the message coming from the leadership is that they don’t care about their staff, the exercise will be futile as the staff will not be supportive. 

Clutterbuck and Megginson, in 'Making coaching work: creating a coaching culture', define a coaching culture as one where: “Coaching is a predominant style of managing and working together, and where a commitment to grow the organisation is embedded in a parallel commitment to grow the people in the organisation”.  Companies looking to change their systems and processes and grow may need to reflect on this at the impact assessment stage.  A sustained drive to change and embed a new culture into the organisation should not be taken lightly and creating time in a pressured work environment for thinking, sharing, growing and developing is a big ask.

In her book “Time to Think”, Nancy Kline says:  “Knowing how to manage a thinking team is fundamental to building tomorrow’s successful organisation”.  She recognises that the power base for culture change is the team meeting.  And organisations need to recognise that this change requires a high level of energy from the leadership team over a sustained period of time.

The results, when nurtured and driven through successfully, repay the effort.  The act of creating conversations where inline coaching takes place as a matter of course can be seen in higher levels of commitment in staff, improved staff retention and a greater commitment to the organisation’s objectives as a whole. 

And with a well-implemented and rigorously managed HR system working behind the scenes, data can be mined and insights revealed which will help to prove the case for investing in technology, processes and, of course, people.

 

Izzy Ixer, Director and Principal Consultant, Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd

26 November 2015