People Risks

by Rosie Harrison  

  Losing the ones you really want to keep



Humour me for just a moment. - I would like you to imagine that you are at a very important meeting to decide the future strategy of your company. You can see your Top Team of 20 people around the table. None of them earn less than £70,000 a year. 

As you look around the faces consider these 

Top Team Facts

·      12 would leave if they got a better offer;

·      18 don‘t trust you to develop them or their careers;

·      18 of them think they have good relations with their staff;
        (note: only half their staff agree )

·      only 5 say that they attract talented people to work for them;

·      only 3 of them know who the high performers working for them are;

·      3 of them are being bullied or have been bullied by their managers;

·      6 of them think work is the most important thing in their life;

·      only 14 feel valued and appreciated; 

Which of these figures bothers you most? The number of people who would leave, the ones who don’t feel valued, the ones who have been bullied? 

What effect do you think this has on your ability to:

·      create an inspiring long term vision,

·      bring projects in on time

·      create inspirational role models that reflect and live your company values? 

But it couldn’t happen to you - right? Your new management mantra is ‘our people are our greatest asset’ You have innovative and creative HR policies; you recruit and retain the right people with the right skills and you put them the right place. Your company can survive and thrive by successfully deploying its people assets. 

Reality check - ‘mind the Gap’

If you’ve ever used the London underground you’ll recognise the gap as that space between the platform and the lip of the train - and it differs depending on which type of train comes into the station. Many commuters while dashing for the train, talking on their mobile, and just generally living their lives are so task focused that they fail to attend to other details - like the gap. They fall over, get hurt and complain about the gap - not their lack of attention. 

So where is your attention? On your HR policies or the day to day practicalities? Do you know if there is a gap between what you think is happening and what is happening to each and every single employee - in every meeting, in every communication, on every day.

Remember a mantra is just something you say (normally just a sound to help you focus on nothing!) you will be judged on what you do. 

Back to your Top Team - 12 would go if there was a better offer and 6 of them don’t feel valued -could this be attributable to a gap between what your company says and what it does? 

Partly the gap is due to the corporate message: ‘we value you and appreciate you - just a long as we need you’ that emerges loud and clear after several years of down sizing and structural reorganisation. Professionals are newly cynical about corporate life and have strong beliefs about how their careers should be managed. As a result more and more professionals are going it alone as independents and taking responsibility for negotiating their own deals and managing their own development. 

And so we have a highly skilled, talented and mobile group - who go where they want and when they want. They go where: the work is interesting; the rewards packaged in a way that suits them and, increasingly, where their family and ethical values are in alignment with those of the companies they choose to work for.  

Often these are the very people you need for the big innovative project or the challenging enterprise transformation. So how do you court them and woo them to your side and your cause? 

It might help to think of your time together in the same way as having a short term personal relationship - you both want mutual satisfaction and fulfilment and, although you’re unlikely to get married, you want to stay friends when its all over 

In real life we make this happen by trying harder, we are more attentive to their needs and we listen more closely - not surprisingly this tactic works on a corporate level too. One way to get and keep the right faces for your Top Team is to use the latest North American executive perk - the executive mentor or personal coach. And no, we’re are not talking fitness trainers here. 

What is executive mentoring?

As CEO of this Top Team (did I forget to mention you were the CEO - sorry!). As CEO you are already highly intelligent and successful - people think you have it all but do you ever have days where some of the following happens:

·      you just want to discuss a new idea or concerns about a new strategy - without the rumours starting and the share prices going volatile;

·      all the day to day stuff is boring and you want to get back to the creative side you love;

·      the company’s running you - you’re not running the company - distracted by trivia where is the next new vision going to come from?

·      when you can’t figure out how to change from command and control to being a transformational leader?

·      when you wish people would just do as they are told

·      when you can’t spend the time out for training but need a new angle;

·      when having it all is simply not enough - you feel there has to be more;

·      when everybody seems to be the competition and it really is lonely at the top. 

This is where executive mentoring and coaching comes into its own. Mentoring and coaching recognises that even the very best individual can improve and can improve quicker with direction and focus. Coaches will help you identify what’s really important to you and help you get to where and who you want to be. The key is that you must want to change and be prepared to put in the effort -  it’s all about a better life rather than a better life-style. 

What can you expect to get?

·      Honesty, and total confidentiality -
lets face it who else is going to tell you the whole truth and who can you truly trust not to mention it to their best friend / worst enemy.

·      Commitment -
a mentor/ coach  has your agenda on the table - no ones else’s .Your success is their business - it’s what you are paying for. 

Organisational benefits

·       insightful sounding board for new strategies -
you may need help to clarify the vision to understand its impacts good and bad before going public;

·      keep you clear and focused -
mentors hold your strategic vision and don’t let you get distracted by short term goals;

·      improved performance and creativity -
creates just in time  and just enough learning enabling performance to be enhanced and encourages a learning culture;

·      reflective time -
mentoring gives you personal time to focus on what you need both in terms of business skills and personal ambitions. When was the last time you had a meeting where you, your wants and your needs were the only thing on the agenda;

·      creates role model leadership behaviour -
allows the senior team to demonstrably live the cultural values;

·      create a greater sense of the value of people and respect for them. 

Personal Benefits

·      value alignment -
puts you back in touch with who you want to be and how you want to live;

·      integrating business and personal life for balance;

·      better goal setting -
go beyond smart - look for the well formed outcome you want, consistent with your values;

·      prioritising actions and choices -
catching up and getting ahead of the business;

·      redefining skills -
as a superb manager you may need to transform management skills to leadership skills. 

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? 

Mentoring tends to be more business oriented and organisational results based. It also tends to be face to face. A lot of coaching can be phone based - you never need to meet your coach in person - unless you want to. 

Probably the key difference is that mentors can and will give advice and make suggestions,  whereas coaches tends to focus on eliciting the solutions from you - we know that you have all the answers, you might just not have realised it yet. 

Both work because the focus is on the individual to achieve what matters to them. All coaches and mentors believe that people are incredible and have vast resources available. And they’re not alone  

"If we did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves." -- Thomas A. Edison 

This enables them to believe in you 100% they know that you can do it if you put your mind to it. They will encourage and support you every step of the way and they won’t make judgements about your choices. Want to give it all up and live on a desert island? Coaches are happy to help you achieve that - if it is what you really want. 

Remember – her or his business is your success in whatever endeavour you chose (caveat: its got to be legal, ethical and moral!)  

And that’s why it works - each person is treated uniquely and respected for who they are, not who they should be, or even whom they could be.  

Individuals who are provided with coaches by their companies feel better, and perform better according to a recent article that also says that coaching has an ROI of  600%. So, good value for money. 

Think of Tiger Woods the golfer, there is no doubt that he has huge natural talent and that he is awesome - he has a coach. Are you better at what you do than Tiger is at playing golf? 

How does it work? - The Process 

Every coach and mentor has a tool kit of techniques they use depending on what you want to achieve and the kind of person you are. As I said it will be uniquely tailored but for a rough idea of what’s behind it all, read on. 

Value elicitation

·      Establish values -
What’s important to you; what are the key areas in you life / business e.g.: family; career; money, leadership etc.?

·      Establish priorities -
possibly using a balanced scorecard or wheel of life pie-chart. Where do you want to focus your energy?

·      Define goals -
Where do you want to be in key areas?  

Gap analysis or reality check

·      Establish baseline - 
Where are you now in each key area. How satisfied are you in each area?

·      Identify what’s missing or below desired satisfaction levels.

Action Planning

·      Identify resources to close gap -
What do you need to do or learn?

·      Identify interested parties -
Who can help?  Who needs to be told?

·      Identify when things need to happen -
When do I need to have completed and activity in order for my goals to come true?

Review Outcomes

·      How will I recognise when I have achieved my goal?

·      How will I know how far I’ve come?
Am I better read, have more time, less fights with Board? Chose something you can measure that is appropriate.

·      Do I need to change my goals?
Is this really what I want?

·      Do I want to go further or add new goals?
More please, higher, faster, further?  

I’m Convinced - How do I get it?

And how do I pick the right coach or mentor? 

Many consulting companies and individuals offer executive mentoring and coaching as well as a raft of other services. 

Picking is easy keep talking to mentors and coaches until you find one that you like and relate to. 

Merryck and Co. were voted one of the top 100 visionary companies in the UK and the award was based on client testimonials. They specialise in CEO mentoring.  

Personal coaches can be found from:

·      the Life Coaching Academy who run training and certification schemes  

·      The Industrial Society run training course and have a register of coaches 

·      Northern America has the Federation of Coaching

·      Canada has Peer Resources  

Try the web search for ‘life coaches’ or ‘mentoring’. 

I’m tough I’ll do it alone

Fair enough have a interesting journey. 

Try these books - style is a very personal thing so browse before you buy 

Effective Coaching by Myles Downey - ISBN 0-75282-108-3 

Transform your life - 10 steps to real results byCarole Gaskell - ISBN 0-00-710078-7 

Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore - ISBN 1-85788-170-2 

There are hundreds of others - there is something out there to suit your taste and style. 

Visit these web sites

I got the statistics by running together the findings of various recent surveys carried out by the Industrial Society, the TUC and the CBI .   (industrial society)


Time select/global business September 25, 2000 vol. 156 no. 13

Fostering employee loyalty in a tight labour market, companies are offering workers personal coaches as a tool to help them thrive  

FORTUNE MAGAZINE - February 21, 2000

" the past five years coaching has gone mass-market. In the age of Every Man for Himself, every man can have a coach--and, in an ever more commonly held view, needs one."  

FAST COMPANY - March, 2000

"Even world-class athletes can't reach peak performance without a great coach."  

BUSINESS WEEK - October 11, 1999

"As for coaching, having someone listen to you and encourage you, and break everything down into easy, concrete steps, is rather nice." "It's not just helping them with hard-core business issues but also helping them with their personal issues..."  

BLACK ENTERPRISE - September, 1999

"'Mentors for hire' are a relatively new phenomenon….., coaches use a personalised, philosophical approach that focuses on career and life issues, and follow up to ensure the executive's progress."    

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Rosie Harrison is an ex Systems Analyst, Strategic Risk Manager and trainer, and corporate business manager.   Currently she is working as a life coach and business mentor. She also teaches Tai Chi.