Drive the bus, and not a passenger – so get a coaching psychologist!

The many different shades of coaching & coaching psychology are becoming an ever increasingly popular tool for supporting personal & professional development. With a raft of 2-week life-coaching courses through to MSc qualifications in coaching psychology there are a wide range of views and opinions of what coaching & coaching psychology really is; and more importantly how effective the process it really is?  Interestingly, just over six out of ten respondents in the CIPD Learning and development survey reported that they now use coaching in their organisations. Of these just over 50% say that their organisation see coaching as a ‘permanent style’ and desirable form of management. Moreover,  73% of respondents expect to see coaching by line managers increase in the next few years. So is this trend the latest management fad or something for business to build on to help manage people at work in the 21st century?

Coaching & coaching psychology is a relatively new discipline and there may still be a lack of understanding of how best to use coaching or coaching psychology models – and in what situations it will be most effective. So what is coaching psychology? There is some confusion about what exactly coaching psychology is, and how it differs from other services such as some forms of coaching, counselling and or mentoring.

Coaching psychology endeavours to be an evidenced based process of identifying an individual’s hopes, talents and goals, whilst helping them to find the confidence and skills to achieve their aims. From athletes to top businessmen – good coaching is now recognised as one of the key elements of success in all major competitive fields – this is why it is one of the fastest growing business skills today. What do you want to be – a decision maker & problem solver, better manager, a leader, more energetic, better organised, a great public speaker or a sporting success. Though coaching psychology is essentially a non or perhaps a semi directive process but still a structured form of development.

Coaching psychologist can be trainers, experts in their field and most are members of organisations such as the British Psychological Society Special Group of Coaching Psychology and the Association of Business Psychologists. As a result providing an ethical framework and some legitimacy to their work. Needless to say, coaching psychologists are there to help discover what YOU want, and to develop your potential. Rather than imposing a set of beliefs, obtuse value systems or a course of action upon you, a coach will work co-operatively to help you make the decisions to change your life.

Typically, the process of coaching psychology involves:

  • Identifying what your goals are and turning these goals into concrete objectives
  • Help create a self-image that could achieve these objectives.
  • Forming a structures plan to realise the goals.
  • Building a support framework
  • Executing the plan and looking at the feedback loops
  • Monitoring and celebrating success

Though does coaching work – this is the $64m question. Research into coaching psychology is lagging behind the meteoric growth in the industry. Interesting research from Jonathan Passmore into coaching and learning is beginning to provide the evidence to support the claims from coaching psychology. However, the “coaching industry” is littered with self-help guru’s espousing a philosophy to change your life in 30 minutes by just focussing your thoughts and language or just to be more positive. Though without meaningful research how do we know that it works or are you just wasting your hard earned cash?  It is notoriously difficult to measure the subjective experience of individual change though coaching without providing meaningful benchmarking data  before the intervention and then afterwards. However, sometimes easier to measure the harder outcomes in business – for example increased sales or enhanced interpersonal skills etc.

More and more business leaders and managers want to coach people at work, to help them perform better and to feel engaged at work. Coaching as with most things at work, is primarily an interpersonal and communication skill that can be learnt. However, having run a number of organisational coaching courses, sometimes those skills can require a lot of hard work to ensure that they become integrated into everyday conversations between staff members and line-managers. Hence the need for continued one-to-one coaching for the learner to cement the key skills and abilities necessary to coach people at work. Listening and reflecting on the coachees thoughts and lived narrative experience can be taught and implemented with care. Though “care” being the operative word; when coaching becomes counselling, the manager may not have the skills or ethical guidelines  necessary to manage the ensuing fallout.

So coaching and coaching psychology have a long way to go to support many of the claims made about effectiveness of the intervention. However, with care appointing your coach or coach trainer and asking them about their credentials and experience you will find a coach that can help you reach your goals. Therefore supporting both personal and organisational goals and objectives with success criteria & data for a return on investment  to perhaps prove its worth.

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Appraisals what are they good for – absolutely everything!

download (7)How many people have a good performance appraisal experience, however many line managers feel that they are just a “HR box ticking” episode (bah humbug), or more to the point how many people actually have appraisals at work?

Having recently spent some time reviewing an organisations appraisal process, it became clear that there is no one size fits all formula. In fact, making sense of the weight of conflicting models and theory from psychology for conducting appraisals, it is akin to herding very excitable cats high on industrial strength catnip. Indeed the Internet is awash with confusing “do this do that” that just adds to the confusion. However, if arranged properly performance appraisals can become a source of business focus, proper job design, improved communication, employee motivation, build confidence, self-esteem and can be seen as a huge learning and development opportunity for all concerned.

Social & work psychology has a lot to say about appraising people at work and how people make judgements about others. Research shows that we are highly subjective and very often biased in our judgements. In some cases we can draw seriously invalid conclusions about motives and actions of people based on our own sometimes skewed view of the world. This is primarily due to our habit of utilising “cognitive shortcuts or cognitive heuristics” to help us manage and make some sense of our increasingly complex surroundings. Sadly, this may explain our tendency to stereotype and frame our prejudices of others, that can lead to significant problems assessing people at work and other walks of life.

So back to the performance appraisal process and how to potentially make it more of an objective, more about evidence and less subjective. To clarify, appraisals are to improve performance for the organisation, a team and the individual. So here are a few pointers that may be helpful to both appraisers and appraisees that may add a little more science to the whole business.

High performance appraisal cultures endeavour to

  • add clarity about objectives and goals for the business and individuals
  • provide continuous feedback on performance
  • provide recognition of performance
  • support personal development of individuals within the business.

Adopting an objective goal orientated approach can provide

  • a deeper understanding of the job or role
  • a focus upon the real business needs
  • improved communication

Focussing upon goals, Key Result Areas (KRA’s) and using objective measures of performance (perhaps a well designed and evidenced based psychometric test or 360 feedback) will provide a framework to remove the subjectivity of the appraisal process for both appraiser and appraiser. As a result, there is a focus upon ratings of performances that are clear and transparent and not about personality or subjectivity. Consultation with staff teams, coaching and interpersonal skills training for line managers and a leadership team that talks up the system will ensure that systems support changing the culture of appraisals from a pain to a pleasure & an opportunity.

So you want to work from home………………..well perhaps think again?

So lets say you may be floating somewhere on cloud nine by securing perhaps first-time employment or starting your own business that allows you to work from a home-base – many congratulations if that is the case.

Working from home is one of those concepts, like eating a very large choc ice on a very hot day, that sounds great in theory. But, just like taking on a large choc ice in 30C heat, if you don’t approach it carefully, methodically and industriously, you’ll end up in a bit of a pickle, flustered and quite possibly quite sticky.

Though let’s be positive: working from home – whether it’s a day out of the office, every now and again, working for yourself or something that you do because you just don’t have an office – may mean that you are your own boss. All right, you might have an actual boss somewhere, but you can start early or late, have a leisurely breakfast and then starting work in your pyjamas or take two and half hours for lunch and watch a bit of daytime TV……right? Well along with the positives there are a few things from work psychology that the home-based worker may need to be aware of and plan for.

Clearly as with most things in life home-based working its all about preparation. Planning, discipline, regular breaks (home-based workers generally underestimate the need for breaks) more ecologically friendly (lack of a commute) are all positive aspects of home-based working though be prepared for the psychological fallout too.

Research into home-based working shows it may be fraught with psychological pitfalls, as found by both my research and many others. The findings fall into a number of specific categories that rear their heads on numerous occasions. So here just a few issues from research that may be worth thinking about before you dive in working from home.

  • Mental well-being – try not to become isolated staring at the same four walls at home day-in-day out. Get out and meet people and colleagues regularly to help stave off stress and depression.
  • Make sure you boss technology and it doesn’t boss you! Try not to take your smart phone or computer to bed just to be contactable by customers or the boss. Take a break from IT when you can.
  • Think about how your home and work space is going to function. Its tricky to sometimes think of your home as a place that you work in, as we have distinct cognitive constructs and behaviours for both. So perhaps a morning commute may help you get you ready to work or play?
  • Be prepared for tricky negotiations with family members to ensure that the work station/space is respected as just that. Can be awkward if children want to play and you are on the phone. So prepare the ground before hand to create the boundaries.

So forearmed is forewarned and with some careful planning and discipline your home and work life can be a great compromise for a lot of employees and self-employed people.