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The Performance Coach blog

Below you'll find some interesting articles about developments in the world of coaching and leadership development. Enjoy, and if you'd like to subscribe to posts, just join our mailing list here.


Positive about change?

We'd just like to draw your attention to a recent article by TPC's Andrew McDowell and John Walsh (York Street Health Practice, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust) in which they discuss positive psychology. You can read it below or on the Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust Blog, where it originally appeared.

'Learning is the discovery that something is possible.' - Fritz Perls

'The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were' - John Keats

Dr Martin Seligman is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is famous for his work in the field of Positive Psychology. This school of psychological thought doesn't seek to replace mainstream psychology but complement it through the study of what gives life meaning and what makes it worth living. It asks how we can extend and amplify the good that is already working in our lives and shining the light on our creative assets and seeking their growth and unfolding.

One of the authors at the beginning of his academic career attended a presentation where Dr Seligman outlined his early ideas about the need for Positive Psychology. Dr Seligman received a series of challenging questions around 'why bother with all this positive stuff?', Dr Seligman replied that he had to because he was a born pessimist. He said he needed a practice that helped him see through problems to positive options and be more optimistic about outcomes. His natural temperament would lead him to be locked in the problem. He needed a key to unlock this process and move to another place to address the issue. This echoes well the comments of Einstein and Jung that we often cannot solve problems on the same level of consciousness that generated them. We need new spaces and thinking to break the code of the problem.

This positive, more optimistic approach echoes much of what we see crossing our services and on forums like Twitter. People and networks are sharing fresh, kind and affirming ways of being and doing as the future framework for change. These new movements offer such promise, potency and energy. Yet it is not always an easy walk although a much needed one, especially if we are talking about the deep, sustainable change that so many of us see as possible and work so hard to achieve. All too often we have experienced changes in services that only touch surface structures, policies and procedures rather than going to the heart of the issues. And sometimes people propose a ‘be positive approach’ as part of these initiatives, failing to really appreciate the complexity of issues, acknowledge the scale of the challenges or engage the difficulties that the people involved deal with on a day to day basis when they see the potential of what could be possible in the face of a reality that seems intractable.

The kind of positivity Seligman is promoting has nothing to do with creating false positive-ness that can only ever skim along the surface of change. Rather, a Positive Psychology approach invites us to name the problems and the pains and see how we can learn from them to work them through in constructive and compassionate ways. Positive Psychology offers much for us to learn. It is not just about being positive, its about engaging with the complexity of a challenge and bringing positive approaches to working with it. Authentic listening, mutual support, empathy, knowing we don't have all the answers, a commitment to deep and open dialogue and the creation of new ways to think and do health and care is the DNA of these new movements. At it’s heart is the belief that all of us have tremendous goodness, gifts and potential. We believe that is from the activation of these wellsprings that the solutions and new forms of service will emerge.

The authors of this met recently at an initiative of the NHS Health Trusts and Public Health in Leeds. They have brought Health Coaching into the city so we can look at and change the quality of our health conversations with patients. The old model is where the patient is the passive recipient and the clinician the expert. This is a move to a new terrain where both are experts and co-create health plans and solutions together. At the heart of this approach lies a view of people as not problems but as people with assets, gifts and potency. This more humanistic and positive model offers great promise to people and the city.)


Three-way contracting: 10 top tips

To follow on from our recent '3 way contracting for 1-2-1 coaching programmes’ webinar (click here or scroll down to view), here are our top ten tips for introducing this approach to your coaching programmes:
  1. We always recommend working with an HR / L&D Sponsor to educate and gain support from senior levels of organisation for the introduction of three way contracting conversations to coaching programmes. This is the same for internal and external coaching and is an important step to maximise the wider sponsorship and recognition of coaching within an organisation. 
  2. During briefing sessions, you can help educate the line manager / sponsor and coachee regarding the purpose of this process, the benefits and expectations of all parties.
  3. Sometimes coaches are concerned regarding the introduction of the line manager in case this has a negative impact (due to the relationship they hold with the team member). The HR or L&D team can support you by checking and  reviewing the health of the relationship between the line manager and coachee. They can always involve an alternative business sponsor if the relationship is poor or if this relationship forms part of the focus for the coaching programme.
  4. We recommend setting the three way meeting to happen after the initial chemistry and contracting session with the coachee . This enables you to develop the start of an effective working relationship with the coachee on a 1-2-1 basis  as well as preparing them for the three way meeting.
  5. We suggest using templates for private and public goals to ensure there is a written record; the public goals can then be shared with the line manager / sponsor.
  6. Between the contracting session and the three way meeting, you can ask the coachee to discuss the public goals before the next session with the line manager or business sponsor. This also maintains responsibility with these parties rather than you holding this.
  7. Before holding your first three way meeting, we would encourage you to discuss this with your coaching supervisor - they can help you reflect and consider your approach in terms of managing the session as a horizontal, adult to adult conversation. Remember the notion of psychological distance we discussed during the webinar and the importance of three way contracting to manage this.
  8. A high level of transparency and openness is required from the manager / sponsor and the coachee during the meeting.  It is essential that there are no ‘hidden’ agendas and that the unspoken is spoken. You may therefore need to prepare each party for meeting if this is their first time. In terms of the public goals, you can also facilitate a conversation about shared expectations and the psychological contract; ask the line manager to share feedback on how they experience the coachee and the coachee to voice the organisational support they require.
  9. After the three way discussion, when the sponsor /manager has left the meeting, you can revisit the ‘private’ goals with the coachee as new outcomes may have emerged in terms of how they want to address and respond to the ‘public’ goals.
  10. Finally, it is not always possible to hold a three way conversation, so it is important for you to consider how can you ensure that the organisational expectations and required public goals are discussed more explicitly during your contracting sessions.    


Three-way contracting: an introduction

Three way contracting image

by Damion Wonfor 

The below post accompanies our forthcoming free webinar on three-way contracting (23 February 2015 at 3pm). You can register to watch it here.

“We have seen many coaching engagements fail because they were conducted in a vacuum.” (Byham, Smith and Paese, 2002, p.252)

"In my idealistic past I used to contend that a coaching relationship and its content were nothing to do with the boss. I now see this as naive and realise that a coachee’s boss has a massive stake in the successful outcome of a coaching intervention not least because they’re often providing the budget for it.” (Somers, 2007, p.270)

In 2007, research from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2007, p.5) found that “…most organisations we researched set organisational / business as well as personal objectives for each coaching contract and tended to monitor them on an individual relationship basis. This seems to work best when this activity is carried out as a three- or four-cornered contract involving line managers and development/HR staff working together.” Since then, there has been continued recognition from organisations that business involvement in contracting ("three-way contracting") often drives greater success for 1-2-1 coaching programmes. In addition, our experience has continually shown that involving organisations in setting goals for coaching programmes within their business drives the additional and wider benefits of their ownership, sponsorship and support of coaching as a development tool for their staff.

Through gaining the support of senior leaders and involving the business in setting the agenda, coaching can start to support the strategic and business objectives as well as individuals. From lessons learnt by organisations using coaching it has been found that “coaching was felt to be most effective when it was explicitly linked to wider business goals. This helped to build credibility and gain buy-in as people could see that it was designed to support them in achieving their own goals.” (Jarvis, Lane and Fillery Travis, 2006, p.76).

Coaching must serve the organisation and the individual; this requires the coach to strike a balance between the individual and the organisation to engage both and ensure the coaching meets both parties' expectations. By striking this balance, the individual, coach and manager can work together to support the coaching programme with performance improvement as the end goal. (Additionally, it is worth remembering that when an organisation funds a coaching programme it often wants input into the objectives for the coaching assignment and expects to see return on investment.)

Today more coaches now recognise the organisation as the client as well as the coachee and are focussing more on the input from the organisation as they understand the benefits this can bring to their relationship with the individual. At The Performance Coach, we believe coaches have to take responsibility for this by explicitly involving and educating the business; however, our experiences continually show that often the organisation is still not being brought into the contracting stage of the coaching programme due to the perceived complexity this may bring. Coaches often ask us:

  • whether this third dimension truly adds value to the success of the programme?
  • what is the real purpose of introducing three-way contracting at the start of a coaching programme?
  • what are the benefits to the various parties?
  • what do I need to do to prepare for a three-way meeting?
  • how can I manage potential conflicts and create a transparent contracting process with all parties concerned?

During our free webinar on three-way contracting, our UK Partner Damion Wonfor will explore these key themes and share experiences and approaches for facilitating an effective three way contracting process for a 1-2-1 coaching programme.

The webinar takes place on 23 February at 3pm GMT. You can register to attend here.


Webinar: women in leadership - an introduction

by Kate Hesk and Damion Wonfor, The Performance Coach UK

In this webinar Kate Hesk and Damion Wonfor, Partners at The Performance Coach UK, introduce the area of women in leadership and present an overview of the content that you can enjoy as part of our Virtual Leadership Summit's Women in Leadership day.

About the presenters

Kate Hesk

Kate Hesk is a Partner of The Performance Coach UK. She specialises in coaching individuals and teams through change, including major business change; areas of specialism include mentoring, self-leadership and personal growth techniques, leadership and team development programmes.

Kate has coached and trained many and varied clients including directors, Managing Directors and leaders at all levels in small and large organisations by utilising a combination of hard, sophisticated business skills and a personable and approachable style.

Damion Wonfor

Damion is also a Partner at The Performance Coach UK. He has coached at all levels within organisations, working with high potentials, directors, executives and leadership teams across a variety of functions. He is passionate about building strong relationships with his clients and helping individuals and teams explore their leadership styles to make sustainable changes to their behaviour. He brings a high degree of presence, support and challenge to enable his clients to fully embrace change.


Need to enhance your leadership presence? Go to the respect zone

by Ausra Bijaminiene, The Performance Coach Nordic

In this article Ausra Bijaminiene, who works with The Performance Coach Nordic, discusses the concept of leadership presence and explains why the 'Respect Zone' is such a key part of it.

During my 16 years experience in the corporate world as Head of Human Resources in several countries, I have crafted my own practical definition of what is grounded in the essence of Leadership Presence.

Your Leadership Presence starts with your personal values. That's the core of your authenticity. No one expects you to be the next Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg or Oprah Winfrey. You have your own preferences, character, and life passion. When you take your authentic decisions based on your guiding principles, you don't waste time to hesitate. I start each engagement with a new executive coaching client with a Personal Values session. Quite many of them try to resist, saying that they know everything about themselves and we can go to the next topic. But I insist that we dig deeper into authentic personal values first and in most cases we then discover their true "wow" moment shortly afterwards. After that we step into a natural flow of priorities and make a genuine difference.

The next layer is your intelligence - your 'content'. This covers your environmental radar, judgement ability and width of your world outlook. Emotional intelligence is a huge part of things here: how well you understand yourself and others, how well you are able to manage yourself as well as your relationships with the other people. Without the content in today's business world, a person is just "an empty suit" or "an empty dress".

One more significant component is unbeatable self-confidence. Your steps should be so strong that you will not dissolve in a crowd. Stand strongly on the ground. Love yourself and trust yourself. No one else will do that for you, and it's obvious that no one will follow a leader who hesitates or changes opinion several times a day. People want to follow strong leaders in good times and bad.

Your exterior layer is like the cover of the book. In Leadership Presence arena it is the way you speak, look an behave with the other people. Make sure your attire, body language and posture signals your leadership presence. Today we sit a lot: in the meetings, planes, cars, at home. Make sure you stand tall and stretch your shoulders. You will look and feel better. Let your speach be concise and clear. People don't have time to listen to long and boring stories, therefore have your own TED talk ready every time you have to speak in public. Proven life and leadership wisdom tells us that people will not remember all the numbers or graphs you are showing, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel.

Genuine leadership presence happens in the only place on Earth - I call it the Respect Zone. The zone where you say "I am ok" - I am not too young or too old or not ready. If I do not know, I will learn. I trust myself and love myself unconditionally. And the people who are next to me - my bosses, employees, partners, customers, friends and family - they are also ok. I trust and respect them. If you have some issues with a person, solve them, or help a person to solve them. Arrogant, angry, tired or apathetic leaders have a short and unstable perspective.

Sounds demanding and really challenging? Yes, it is! Being a leader is a challenging role, as everybody is watching you, every minute - in meetings, presentations, or during lunch time. Every day as a leader you share and distribute yourself in the form of advice, decisions, mentorship, support and negotiations with/to your employees, partners, clients, shareholders, family, friends and other people. Therefore, it is an absolute must to unconditionally love yourself and ensure superb self-care. It's like the roots of a tree. When you make sure your roots are strong and healthy, then self-confidence, stress resistance and life passion come to your life with ease. All this will lead to success, financial independence, joy, happiness, inner peace, achievements and all the abundance you need. Start in the right place.

Leadership Presence can be developed, it is not in someone's DNA. You can develop it by reflecting on events and situations, practicing some behaviors or communication patters, finding a mentor who advices you and gives open feedback, hiring a experienced Executive Coach who will support you in your journey or attending a special Leadership Presence development program.

I sincerely wish you to experience your authentic joy of making a significant difference in people's lives.

About the author

Ausra Bijaminiene is Leadership Strategist and Executive Coach helping intelligent and ambitious people to discover opportunities in their life and businesses.

She works with The Performance Coach Nordic.