The Oprah Winfrey TV show started on September 8 1986 and ran continuously for 25 years. In the final show Oprah said that over the 25 years, she had spoken to nearly 30,000 ‘hopefuls’ – in other words, people who wanted to be on her show. Obviously, very few made it through the series of interviews culminating in their being chosen to appear on the show.
She said: "I've talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'
"Understanding that one principle, that everybody wants to be heard, has allowed me to hold the microphone for you all these years with the least amount of judgment…it's helped me to try to do that with an open mind and to do it with an open heart. It has worked for this platform, and I guarantee you it will work for yours. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. 'I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.'"
This is a powerful lesson. Can you imagine how much better the world would be if every man, woman and child felt that they had been seen, heard and that what they said mattered. Isn’t that a huge lesson for each of us? We have a role to play, even if we don’t agree with what the person is saying.
Let me share a specific example: Geoff lives this principle in an effective way. I used to smile when our grandchildren were young and came to him complaining about each other. He would listen intently, and quietly say, ‘I have taken note of what you said’. He gave them the impression that he had seen them, he had heard them and what they said mattered. Usually that was the end of the conversation! They felt validated and were satisfied.
Practice this principle and you will be helping to make the world a better place for everyone.
My questions for you are:
- How powerfully do you feel the presence of others?
- In which ways do you acknowledge a person’s presence, even if you aren’t able to attend to them immediately?
- How open and non-judgemental do you appear?
- What could you do to focus more intently on the person speaking?
- What do you practice in order to minimise barriers to your being more receptive to what the person is saying?
- How can you show the speaker that what they say matters – even if you don’t agree with what they are saying?
For more information on Executive Coaching, either ‘in person’ or via electronic means, please contact Brenda Eckstein, email@example.com or phone +27 82 4993311, www.strategy-leadership.com
Privacy remains an important right. Yet in some ways, new laws may appear to hamper our ability to communicate with our intended audiences. Reminding our clients of our existence and building relationships through communicating, on a regular basis, is key to the successful running of our businesses. So how are new laws going to dampen the way we operate?
This is a huge topic and I was pleased to see how Gary Eckstein has taken the lead in clarifying and simplifying the impact of legal changes for Small and Medium Businesses. In this article, ‘Here’s how the new spam laws could benefit SME’s’, published August 8 2019, his focus is on small businesses in Australia because that is the target audience of SmartCompany, the reputable magazine for which he has written this article. However, his content applies to a far wider range and is authentic as he substantiates his argument with clear evidence.
In addition, on Sunday August 11, in Let’s Talk Business, 1 million listeners on Australia’s most widely listened to radio stations (2GB (Sydney), 3AW (Melbourne), 4BC (Brisbane), 2CC (Canberra) and 6PR (Perth)) listened to the broadcast in which Gary was interviewed. Regarded by Mailchimp as one of their ‘experts’ Gary’s academic background (Master's degree from Henley-on-Thames where his research thesis was on e-marketing) and practical experience in business consulting and training combine to make him a sought after trainer and speaker at business gatherings and at universities.
Above are just two examples of how he shares his expertise and how his advice is sought. Visit his website and gain further valuable information.
My questions for you are:
• What are you doing to connect with the international experts in fields which affect your business?
• How can you adapt the valuable advice given in Gary’s article and broadcast to suit your needs?
• What is the most significant message relevant to your situation?
For more information on e-marketing and Mailchimp training please contact Gary via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website www.organicweb.com.au. Please remember to scroll to the bottom to see the video of his recent lecture at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.
For more information on executive coaching, mentoring or personal strategy, please contact email@example.com
Life is a continuum. However, often at this time of the year, we start considering our New Year’s resolutions in order to build a brighter future. But, how often do people follow through on these intentions?
While I wholeheartedly support developing carefully thought-out personal strategy, I believe that we often neglect plans for implementing and sustaining our goals. In addition, we tend to concentrate on what we need to start doing. For example, we may decide that we should start spending an hour at the gym five times a week. However, we might be doomed for failure because we do not have the capacity to start this new activity unless we stop doing something else.
In addition, complacency can be a stumbling block. While we plan what we wish to concurrently start and stop doing, we also need to remind ourselves to continue doing the things that energise us, bring us joy and help us to grow. These may include everyday experiences which are important to us. For example I was intrigued reflecting on the following glimpses of my life:
The above photo, taken by my daughter, Lara, in December 2018, shows me with my special Grand-dog, Harps. We were on one of my favourite walks in Manly, New South Wales, Australia. Here you can see us at a great coffee shop in one of the alleys. The backdrop is colourful street-art. Because there is pavement seating, Harps is allowed to be at the table with us. So this outing combined my love of family, dogs, walking, being next to the sea, vibrant colours, appreciation of creativity and beauty and interest in the world around me.
I was reminded of another similar joyous occasion many years ago. I smiled when I looked at the photo below as it brought back memories of one of the other many important dogs in our lives.
The above photo was taken in January 1969, fifty years ago. Let me set the scene: three days before our wedding, Ed’s brother Roy surprised us, knowing how much we love dogs. Our wedding gift was a miniature poodle puppy! Antoine Comte de Kintia (simply known as Toni) was precious. How could we not include him as the guest-of-honour at our wedding? Here, at the wedding ceremony, he is held by my father, Campbell.
Dogs are an integral part of our lives. Although we leave our own dogs at home when we travel, there are always opportunities where we can enjoy other people’s dogs. Above, in January 2018, my husband Ed is seen with Kevin and Gavin’s Bella at Hout Bay, Western Cape, South Africa where we were holidaying.
These are examples of incorporating experiences that bring out the best in me, energising me and enabling me to confidently pursue my personal strategy. I encourage you to do the same. Have a visible list of your ‘touchstones’, those sights, sounds, smells, tastes and experiences that help you to feel your best. Incorporating these on a regular basis will help you to feel good, be energised and enable you to stretch yourselves in working towards your vision.
My questions for you are:
- Just as dogs are a theme running through my life, what positive recurring themes are there in your life?
- In which ways do you consciously develop tactics for incorporating the sights, sounds, smells and experiences that bring out the best in you?
- What are you doing to ensure that you continue doing all the things that energise you?
- How can you use positive energy to build your confidence to tackle the more difficult aspects of your personal strategy?
For more information on personal strategy and executive coaching programmes, please contact Brenda at firstname.lastname@example.org
When engaging the services of a coach, there is often confusion over the level of coaching needed. A general rule of thumb is that there are three levels of coaching and these correspond roughly to the depth of training the coach should have in order to coach the client at a certain level and in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Although based primarily on Integral Coaching, these rough guidelines may be useful in considering other forms of coaching.
Spontaneous coaching is used where the coachee has an immediate issue that they need to address. In other words, this is appropriate where a ‘quick fix’ is required. One or two coaching sessions may help the person find solutions which will get them over an immediate hurdle. This is contracted between coach and client ‘up front’ before the start of the programme.
A minimum of a short coaching course at an accredited organisation may qualify a coach to deal with issues like this. I have found it interesting that even when coaches are qualifying at higher levels, in their practical exams, they are usually tested in spontaneous coaching. This is a matter of practicality as usually a maximum of an hour can be allocated to this part of the practical exam.
Sometimes as the coaching proceeds through the agreed spontaneous coaching conversations, both coach and client realise that the coachee would benefit through a more intense coaching programme. If this is being considered, this new programme would be contracted as a separate programme either with the same coach, if they are qualified to work at a deeper level, or with a new coach.
Competency-based coaching helps coachees to become more competent at managing their lives whether it be their roles at work or in their private capacities. Here typically a 3-month coaching programme would be contracted where coach and coachee meet every second week for an hour. The coach helps the client, through reflection and practice, to build new neural pathways and thus become more competent.
I recommend that the coach engaged in this type of coaching should have successfully completed a training course of at least 6-months – again at a reputable institution. Coaches trained at this level will also be effective at spontaneous coaching.
The next level of coaching is where a fundamental shift in the person’s ‘way of being’ is sought in order to help them flourish in their occupational and private capacities. The required outcome would be the person viewing the world differently through enhanced awareness and ability to develop new neural pathways thus embedding their new practices. This takes time and usually at least a six-month programme seeing the coach for an hour every second week is needed. In addition, the coachee needs to be committed to changing themselves and diligently practice assignments crafted together by coach and coachee. Outcomes include being able to self-correct and self-generate.
In this realm there are no ‘quick fixes’ neither for the coachee nor the coach. A programme like this requires that the coach has a deeper level of training, ideally spanning about 2 years at university post-graduate level, or other highly regarded institution. Coaches qualified at this level are competent to coach at lower levels, too. In other words, they are capable of doing Competency-based and Spontaneous coaching.
The converse does not apply. Professional coaches with insufficient training should not be working in higher levels of coaching. In other words, a coach trained to deal only with spontaneous issues should not attempt to work with someone requiring a shift in their way of being. After all, we are working with people’s lives! Similarly a General Practitioner would not practice complex spinal surgery.
Of course, the above are general guidelines. There are many permutations of these levels. However, no coach should ever go beyond their level of training and competence. Professional coaches will also refer clients to appropriate outside professionals in other fields, like counselling, when this seems necessary and they will not try to handle issues beyond their scope, or situations outside the realm of their competence, training and experience.
Furthermore, to call themselves a coach, a person should have gone through training as a coach and be qualified in that field. So let’s look at the definition of professional coaching and here I’m using the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition which is fairly generic, covering a wide range of coaching approaches:
ICF defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’.
No matter how highly qualified in other fields such as psychotherapy, counselling, mentoring or consulting, if engaged in a coaching role, the coach should respect those boundaries and stick to their role as a coach. I have personally found that in working with or mentoring emerging coaches-in-training, the ones who battle most with developing their coaching skills are often those who are qualified in other fields such as counselling.
In brief, make sure you engage the right coach whom you know is qualified and will provide a professional service in line with your requirements. You are more likely to gain positive outcomes, often way beyond your expectations!
For more information on leadership development or executive coaching, please contact Brenda personally at email@example.com or phone +27 82 4993311
There is a strong international move to professionalise the coaching industry and I fully support this approach. We want to make sure that consumers, instead of just buying ‘coaching’ as a ‘nice to have’ commodity, will consider ways of ensuring that they are gaining a professional service and value for money. Those who engage coaches – and particularly executive coaches - would benefit through being more confident as to what to expect. Coaches need to make sure they have earned the right to offer the service that they promise to provide. Currently there are too many grey areas and no real barriers to entry.
Often organisations or individuals invest in coaching without knowing what questions to ask the coach before engagement. There are many variables to be considered. I have outlined a few of the watchpoints which may lead to more successful outcomes. My questions should not be considered as a comprehensive list as many of them will be dependent on the context. So rather consider the list below as a starting point for developing your own approach, whether you are a Human Resources (HR) or Learning and Development (L & D) professional or an individual interesting in being coached. Coaches might consider this useful in creating awareness as they should be able to answer these questions without hesitation.
The suggestions below are based on my own experience as an executive coach, through mentoring emerging coaches engaged in post-graduate studies at various universities and through my own academic studies.
1. When contemplating engaging an executive coach, the first question to consider is whether the candidate really needs coaching or would benefit more through counselling, mentoring, consulting or other approaches? Would another modality better match the person’s needs? Is their manager trying to delegate their managerial responsibilities to an external coach? Where does the coaching need truly lie?
2. If it has been established that coaching is the right path to follow in order to address certain issues, the next question is which coaching approach would be most suitable? Bearing in mind that there is lack of clarity in defining types of coaching, examples might be leadership, executive, integral, performance, neuro-based coaching, or a combination.
There has been a shift over the last few years in the reasons for engaging coaches. International surveys show that while coaches were engaged mainly for corrective reasons ten years ago, now leadership development has become the primary purpose for engaging coaches. Thus coaching should not be viewed as punitive or something that is inflicted on some-one who is not performing, but rather as a way in which to enable individuals to become more productive and flourish. Most coaches nowadays use a strengths-based approach helping people to use their natural strengths and find their own solutions and in so doing, enhance their capabilities. An added advantage is their being able to confirm that they use and evidence-based approach.
3. How committed and open is the person to being coached? Are they prepared to uncover blind spots and build new neural pathways in order to become more productive? Are they prepared to put effort into seeing things differently, changing and finding new solutions for themselves?
4. The big question: Even if this person would benefit through coaching, and the right kind of coaching is being offered, are you sure that the coach being considered is the right coach for this candidate at this time? There needs to be synergy, relationship and trust and the candidate needs to be eager to engage in a coaching programme with this coach at this time.
5. Professional coaches are bound by a Code of Ethics and this varies according to the coaching organisation to which they belong and through which they are accredited. The candidate needs to have had sight of this document and be comfortable regarding the coach adhering to this code and be prepared to work within this framework.
6. Would the format of the proposed coaching programme suit the needs of the organisation and candidate? There are many factors to consider. For example I offer only a six-month programme with one-hour sessions (at flexible times) two weeks apart. The organisation or client may not wish to engage in a programme of that length. These sessions may either be in-person or via Skype (or other electronic means). A person may prefer ‘in person’ sessions and this may not be possible if the client and coach are in different geographic regions. In addition, my programme includes 10-15 minute assignments each day and the potential client may not be prepared to commit to that. The price is also a factor under consideration.
Those first six points can more easily be considered after a ‘chemistry session’ has taken place. Most reputable coaches will offer a complimentary compatibility check session where potential coach and coachee meet for an hour to build relationship and explore possibilities. This ‘contracting’ between the coach and participant at the outset of a programme is vital to establish expectations and agree the way the coach and coachee will work together.
7. In addition, specific questions should be asked regarding the credibility, professional qualifications and experience of the coach. You might find this table useful although not all questions will be relevant on all occasions:
In explaining why these questions are relevant the following may be useful background information:
a. Their being credentialed either through the International Coach Federation (ICF) or Coaches, Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) or other reputable coaching body is important because it is more likely to ensure professional standards.
b. There are various levels of credentialing, e.g. ACC, PCC, Master Coach. The more experienced a coach, the more likely they are to have a higher level of credentialing. (But this is not always a true reflection of the person’s capability.) And please ask them to provide proof. Often, although coaches might be members, they are not actually credentialed.
c. It is important that they have kept their credentialing current. This will mean that they have not become complacent and they continue to develop themselves and keep up to date in line with the requirements of that qualification.
d. There is an overabundance of organisations offering training to coaches. Knowing about the institute through which they trained does give an indication of the thoroughness of their training as some organisations promise unrealistic outcomes and do not breed quality coaches.
e. Even within one training organisation, more than one coach-training course is likely to be offered. Some of these courses are more intense than others or address different types or levels of coaching e.g. life coaching versus executive or leadership coaching.
f. These courses vary in duration, too and cover different models, tools and techniques.
g. Approaches to coaching change over time and good courses continuously improve. So it is a good idea to find out how long ago the coach completed their course. If they are credentialed, keeping up to date will be a requirement, but if not, ask what they are doing to keep abreast of changes.
h. Coaches may qualify in an approach using models and techniques underpinned by specific philosophies. In some courses, such as the University of Stellenbosch Business School M Phil (management coaching) course, students develop their own coaching models based on strong theoretical foundations. However, even these evolve over time. I know mine has! Coaches may branch out into a different realm, too. For example they may shift from life coaching to management coaching.
i. Even highly qualified coaches may not spend many hours a week gaining more coaching experience. Although they might have been coaching for years, many coaches do not engage for more than a few hours a week in individual coaching. International surveys show that most coaches are involved in other activities as well, for example training. How much experience does the coach really have?
j. Group coaching has gained in effectiveness and although not relevant if you are engaging a coach in one-on-one coaching, a coach’s understanding of and involvement in group coaching is an indication of their current active involvement in coaching.
k. Building up coaching hours is important as their total number of coaching hours is an indication of experience. Many coaches qualify and then do not consistently spend time coaching.
l. Although for reasons of confidentiality a coach may not be able to divulge the name of coaches or client organisations, they may nevertheless be able to provide a reference to attest to their coaching capability. Which areas do they concentrate on? For example, I am an executive coach and most of my clients are leaders. Many of these are in professions in fields such as law and accounting.
m. Academic experience alone does not necessarily convert to quality coaching. Experience in an organisational environment adds to the coach’s capability especially if being engaged as an executive coach.
n. I believe that coaches who are bound by Codes of Ethics such as ICF or COMENSA should provide the relevant Code of Ethics to the organisational representative and to the coachee before the start of the programme.
8. Initially be clear on the desired outcomes in order to address the issue facing the candidate. These outcomes may change or gain more substance during the coaching programme, particularly during a longer programme, thus remaining flexible is also important. For example, a risk and safety manager came to me for coaching with his main issue stated as ‘no one listens to me’. We restated this as ‘I can’t get people to listen to me’. In his position it was important that people took immediate action once he had given a message. As the coaching proceeded and he became more aware of his cognitive functioning, we realised that his issue was procrastination. He didn’t deliver his message timeously or confidently and the staff would wait for him to repeat the message. So we established his main issue as procrastination which permeated through his entire ‘way of being’ affecting work and personal domains. Working on procrastination, we were able to shift his fundamental approach and enable him to flourish.
9. An important issue is how the coach will deal with ‘duality of client’. Where an organisation is offering to sponsor a candidate in a coaching programme, the coach needs to consider what outcomes the organisation (or sponsor) anticipates and separately what the individual (from here onwards referred to as the coachee) considers their needs to be. Thus in a situation like this, the coach should take into account the needs of the two clients, the organisation/sponsor and the coachee. What are the organisation’s/sponsor’s expectations and what does the coachee need to gain through a coaching programme? We all have blind spots so the coach will need to assess what the coachee’s issues are, despite what they might verbalise their issues to be. And thus sometimes, the goal of the coaching may shift as the coachee and coach build stronger relationships and as the programme progresses.
10. Before the start of the coaching programme, a meeting between the organisational representative, coach and coachee should take place to agree areas such as reporting dates, format of what is to be covered in the reports, how they should take place (e.g. in person, via Skype) and to whom reports should be directed. This contracting prior to the start of the programme is essential. I have found that in addition to the organisational representative, coach and client, various other stakeholders are sometimes included. Last year I was coaching an executive where two report-back sessions were planned where five were present and they were based in four different countries. And that worked perfectly because it was planned in advance.
11. What reporting system will both the organisation’s representative and coachee be comfortable with in order for the coach to report progress? This again affects the element of ‘duality of client’. There has to be trust between all parties. I advocate that it is agreed ‘upfront’ that neither reporting nor discussion between coach and organisational representative will take place without the coachee being included. I also believe that it is best practice to confirm, in advance, that the coach will always advise the coachee what he or she intends saying at that meeting or in the report. Where reporting is in writing, it should be agreed that the coachee be copied on all communication at that time (and not afterwards).
In summary: would this person benefit through coaching, what kind of coaching would be most suitable and is the coach being considered sufficiently qualified and experienced and the right person to coach this individual? Does the programme being offered match the needs of the organisation and the individual? Has the contracting been adequately dealt with?
The above is my understanding of some of the issues which HR Directors, L&D Managers, individual clients, or others face when considering including coaching as a form of development.
I encourage you to ask the right questions in order to match the right coach with your requirements. If you need any help please let me know and I’ll gladly help to clarify issues with you.
This is the first of two articles regarding the engagement of a coach. Next we’ll explores levels of coaching which are perhaps most relevant to Integral Coaching but certainly provide insights for other types of coaching, too.
For more information on leadership development or executive coaching, please contact Brenda personally: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311
Do you feel overwhelmed - as though you are not achieving enough? As a leader you most probably experience the outside world as being volatile, uncertain, complex and as ambiguous (VUCA). Volatility and uncertainly make it more difficult to make decisions as variables are changing so fast that there often isn’t time to collect all the relevant information.
External forces create an environment of complexity and ambiguity. This applies in the world of work, too. New trends and challenges mean that we can no longer automatically continue to use the practices and tactics that worked in the past. The influence of Millennials makes it important to dislodge much of our traditional way of thinking. Disruption is essential in order to take advantage of opportunities for the future. The rapid advances in technology bring about many of the other changes to which leaders and other executives need to adapt. There are a multitude of other changes taking place in the workplace, too. In the real world, the practical application of the empowerment of women remains a challenge as does taking advantage of diversity.
External global and regional influences and emerging trends in the workplace result in increasing stress levels in leaders. This affects their ability to react or respond appropriately. When coaching leaders and other executives, I find that managing the present often consumes their time and energy. They find it difficult to allocate time to strategic issues, leading to the future.
These were some of my findings in my research study on ‘The role of coaching in developing character strengths in leaders’. This was part of my M Phil degree (Management Coaching) through the University of Stellenbosch Business School (2017). As a practicing executive coach I became increasingly interested in a gap in knowledge. Why wasn’t coaching being used more effectively, in general, in developing leaders in global organisations? And what coaching approaches, programmes, models and other techniques would result in outcomes which would help clients to shift their ‘way of being’ and thus cope better? This was with specific reference to coaching leaders in global organisations. I continued testing my coaching model which I streamlined for that purpose, and continue to adjust as I gain new insights. This has helped to refine my topic and model for a potential PhD study.
But how do I, in simple terms, describe the complexity of how the model works? This has been a challenge as I need to be able to address an academic audience and also potential clients. I found that my content was too abstract and I was having a problem connecting my thoughts to something concrete. I battled. But I was very excited to find a solution during Prof Sebastian Kernbach’s outstanding course, ‘The Productive PhD’ presented at the African Doctoral Academy in January 2018. My core question when doing this exercise was, ‘how do I explain what happens to leaders during the coaching programme?’
I’m sharing the process I followed in order to demonstrate how visualising can help to take thoughts and assumptions which are implicit and convert them to explicit visuals. In other words, we can take complex messages and simplify in order to make it easier for us to explain to others and also more interesting for the audience to understand. These principles apply in academic contexts and also help us to become more productive as executives, leaders or in any other areas where we need to organise and express our thoughts. In fact, they apply to any person who wants to get their point across.
For the exercise that I’m outlining, Prof Kernbach stressed that we needed to rapidly prototype and iterate. Our aim should not be perfection or beauty in our drawings but rather on creating meaning. According to Ben Schneiderman:
‘The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures. It is not about aesthetics.’
In other words, by working speedily and roughly, the focus is on the message rather than on the detail in the drawing.
My first attempts at depicting how my model works when coaching leaders in global organisations appeared sterile. (Please see below.) However, we had been advised to value our failures, accepting them as part of the process, so I kept this series of rapid iterations and am sharing this version with you:
This visualisation did not achieve the desired outcome. It was not inspiring and it was hard to use this visual representation to explain the nuances of the changes that might occur in the leader as a result of being coached using an effective coaching programme. In the figure above I showed the external world (red) and the world of work (green) having an influence on the leader. These remained dominant influences during the coaching process. Moving from left to right, it showed how I visualised how the leader’s inner world (blue) was stifled but grew bigger through coaching.
But I realised that this diagram would not capture the listener’s attention through bringing the story to life. I was stuck!
I asked for help and Prof Kernbach came over to my table. As he listened, he quickly captured my message in visual format. As he proceeded, at each step he did a reality check, confirmed with me that he was understanding and on the right track. In less than five minutes, including a number of rough drawings, he arrived at the representation shown below.
He captured my intention in a fluid, flexible way. His emphasis was how the leader came into the coaching programme as a ‘frigid’ (rectangular) individual. (Seen on the left). His mouth was down and he was surrounded by the tough worlds pressing in around him. As the coaching proceeded, he was no longer a rectangle, but became a smiley resilient person. The leader has removed himself further from those oppressive worlds around him. They are still there, but in the last picture on the right (after 8 coaching sessions!) he is deflecting the demands of the external worlds.
Professor Kernbach’s interpretation inspired me to presevere and below is one of my later rough visualizations. This new series of drawings, is still ‘work in progress’ and will have further refinements, but has helped me to clarify my thoughts.
Remembering that it is neither the quality of the drawing that counts, nor how beautiful it is, but rather the ability of the presenter to clarify and express his thoughts, I quickly developed the visualization below. It needed to make it easier for me to explain my thoughts.
Let me explain my rough drawing above: At the beginning of the programme, shown on the left, the leader is ‘frigid’, almost paralysed through stress. He is inflexible. I have depicted him as a blue rectangle and his mouth is down and he is not looking ahead. The external world (brown) is not separated from him. He cannot distance himself. The same applies to his life in the workplace here drawn with a green pen. In both cases, the lines inward show the pressure or expectations of both worlds and how he is absorbing all the negative energy.
As the 8-stage coaching programme proceeds, moving towards the right, the leader becomes more and more flexible, more fluid and more able to adapt. After the eighth session he has grown, wears a big smile and is looking ahead. The external (VUCA) world remains the same size, but the leader is managing to distance himself from influences that could impact negatively on him. The same happens with the world of work. In both cases, because the leader has become more resilient, he is able to deflect the influences of both worlds and this is shown in the brown and green arrows.
You may ask: ‘Where does coaching show up in the diagram?’ A good coach remains flexible and ‘in the moment’ meets the person ‘where they are at’ at that time. So the red line between the beginning sessions is straight epitomising the need to match the coaching with the needs of the rectangular leader. Towards the end of the programme, as the coaching proceeds, the client benefits, becomes more receptive and the red line becomes more wavy signifying that the coaching has also been adapted to suits the person’s needs and the coach’s approach is thus much more fluid.
As you can see, what began as a difficult task for me mellowed into a fun, thought-provoking exercise. Before the visualization exercise, I battled to explain what the coaching programme seems to achieve and even in my first set of drawings, I did not appear to be gaining positive results. However, in the final series my thoughts are clearer and I’m able to more effectively describe the likely effects of the coaching programme.
I have shared just one example a visualization exercise. Examples are everywhere… in movies, maps, pie-charts, posters etc. I’m extremely grateful to Dr Kernbach and look forward to using different learnings from his course in my own self-development running parallel to my continuous progress as a coach and researcher. In addition, others will benefit either through being coached or when I mentor other coaches.
My message is that you can cope with feelings of overwhelm by becoming more productive. Make your thoughts explicit and easier to communicate to others. For example, as a leader or other executive use visualising in doing presentations. As a researcher one of the benefits will be that you will find it easier to get your message across. Use visual thinking to your benefit when thinking, communicating and writing and there will be benefits to those you influence. By becoming more productive you’ll be helping your organisation and its people to flourish.
Use these principles and you can more easily organise your thoughts, add meaning and make them explicit thus enabling you to share with others through communicating clearly. You can become more productive!
Please contact the following for more information on:
- Leadership development or executive coaching - Brenda Eckstein through www.strategy-leadership.com or email@example.com
- Visualization workshops - Professor Sebastian Kernbach through www.vicola.org
- The University of Stellenbosch Summer or Winter Schools: The African Doctoral Academy (ADA) - http://www0.sun.ac.za/ada/
The following is intended for those who are interested in the theoretical background to the above example of a visual thinking exercise:
There is a need for a new working intelligence (Kernbach, 2018). When we engage in activities like this, Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence (reference) is relevant as we are using three types of intelligence which he refers to as ‘analytical intelligence’, ‘creative intelligence’ and ‘practical intelligence’. We are using analytical intelligence for abstract thinking and logical reasoning. Creative intelligence comes into play allowing divergent thinking in novel situations. We are also using his third kind of intelligence, practical intelligence, in order to apply the knowledge to the real world and shape our environment. This requires methods, tools and resources.
During the course we captured our message in ‘one eye-span’, a term coined by Edward Tufte whose work was based on Cognitive Load Theory (Clark, Nguyen Sweller and Baddeley, 2006). Thus, our message needed to fit on one page so that we didn’t have to turn our heads. If you can see everything at once, you are able to make sense of information more easily as, for example, you don’t have to remember what was on the previous page. Visualisation extends the brain’s capacity through Distributed Cognition to help us make our implicit thought explicit and thus available to others. The use of shape colour, space and size are used to create visual representations of our messages.
The process here demonstrates aspects of Dual Coding Theory. Processing information through two channels, here imagery and verbal, and using them together increases engagement, attention and recall. The work of Barbara Tversky is relevant in her work on ‘picture superiority’.
- Black, A. (1992). Envisioning information: Edward Tufte, Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 126 pp. ISBN 0 961 3921 1 8.
- Clark, R. C., Nguyen, F., Sweller, J., & Baddeley, M. (2006). Efficiency in learning: Evidence‐based guidelines to manage cognitive load. Performance Improvement, 45(9), 46-47.
- Kernbach, S. (2018). The Productive PhD. African Doctoral Academy
- Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory: Retrospect and current status. Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie, 45(3), 255.
- Sadoski, M., & Paivio, A. (2013). Imagery and text: A dual coding theory of reading and writing. Routledge.
Shneiderman, B. (2008, June). Extreme visualization: squeezing a billion records into a million pixels. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM SIGMOD international conference on Management of data (pp. 3-12). ACM.
Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. CUP Archive.
- Tversky, B., Morrison, J. B., & Betrancourt, M. (2002). Animation: can it facilitate?. International journal of human-computer studies, 57(4), 247-262.
Last week while attending the African Doctoral Academy at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, South Africa I had many great insights which I’d like to share with you over the next few articles. These ‘aha moments’ occurred during an outstanding 5-day course, ‘The Productive PhD’ presented by Dr Sebastian Kernbach of the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. He also presents a similar course at Stanford University in the USA and other leading educational institutions globally.
This course covered fascinating, researched ways in which we can become more productive. I came away with a new ‘toolbox’ of simple and effective visualisation methods and ways of creating awareness of energy levels and using each state more productively. These topics are broad and in this article I focus only on creating awareness and using low-energy times more productively.
Our facilitator articulated and demonstrated his message clearly: we can be more productive through structuring our days according to our energy levels. Although his approach referred primarily to flourishing during a PhD, this approach would apply equally in most people’s business or professional lives, too.
In order to focus on the ‘lows’ let’s look at the pattern of an average day in most people’s lives:
Permission to use the above slide was kindly granted by Professor Kernbach
Professor Kernbach’s message was clear. We should not try to erase those times. The result would be lessening the energy level of our following prime or high-energy periods each of which usually lasts two to three hours. So we should rather engage in mental, emotional and physical activities found to be most effective during low-energy periods.
From a mental perspective, during these times we have better access to creative and holistic thinking and intuition. Emotionally we have an improved perception of our own moods and are more empathetic. Physically that is a good time to have a snack, exercise or take a cat-nap.
We were interested to hear that research has shown that this is not a beneficial time to drink coffee. For many of us, that was contrary to the way we instinctively have a cup of good, strong coffee (or other stimulant) to lift our energy. Does that sound familiar? Yet, evidently, although that will help us to feel more ‘awake’ during the low-energy time, it also reduces the level of the following ‘high’ thus not enabling us to take maximum advantage of the activities we could most productively engage in during those high-energy times. In other words, drinking coffee during a ‘low’ will mean that our low is not so low, but in addition, it will reduce the level of the following ‘high’. The coffee-drinking time most conducive to using our energy levels most productively is at the start of an upward curve in our energy cycle.
So how do you and I apply this information in a practical way? First let me show you what I discovered during the course. I’ll use my own example to demonstrate my ‘findings’ and this is the process I followed:
- I drew my own energy map showing my perceived energy levels on an average day. This can be seen in the black curve in the rough diagram below. Yes, I could easily show the alpha time, prime time and high time. And yes, my own main low lasted about 2 to 3 hours as did the two high-energy times.
- However, that was on an ‘average day’. But what would happen to my energy levels on a day, for want of a better term, I have called an ‘excited day’? So I drew the curve in green. There were significant differences. There I woke up earlier, eager to start on a project that inspired me. My energy was higher from a much earlier time and although there were variations, stayed higher in the evening, too.
- I was the determined to look at another kind of day, the days where I wake up exhausted and battle to get going. There my energy is lower all day and trails off in the evening. (Please see the red curve.)
By looking at three different ways in which I could divide the kinds of days I have (from an energy perspective) and superimposing those three simple graphs, it was astonishing to become aware that, regardless of the kind of day I’m experiencing, all three curves have a similar ‘low-energy’ period in common. This insight is profound as it means I should change my habits in order to take greater advantage of that time.
I went back to the drawing-board and explored the activities that I should allocate to those 2 or 3 hours in the middle of the day. One great insight was that this was the best time for me to attend to e-mails! To be most productive I should not allow this time-consuming activity to interrupt my higher-energy times which can be used more productively for other activities such as problem-solving or higher level strategy thinking.
It is taking a great amount of discipline to break my former habit of getting my e-mails out the way as early in the day as possible. However, I’m already experiencing the benefits. This has practical implications for the clients whom I coach. Most are high-level leaders in executive positions and resent the amount of time they need in order to attend to e-mails and do other routine tasks effectively. It reduces their time for more strategic activities. Thus, although this form of communication is highly effective, it may deplete our emotional energy.
In executive coaching programmes I have tried various tactics with different clients, crafting programmes to suit their needs. An example may be limiting their attending to e-mails to a specific blocked-off period on workdays. This time would be chosen to suit that person’s perceived needs. A few of the leaders have chosen 4pm to 6pm as the only time they allow themselves to look at or work on e-mails and this has benefitted them, but only in a limited fashion. However, it has helped to free the early part of the day for more strategic endeavours.
So, what is the relevance or significance of sharing this insight regarding my own energy levels? It means that, in order for anyone to maximise their low-energy periods, it would be an advantage for them to know when those times occur and plan to do routine admin tasks (including e-mails) or even have a cat-nap during those times. This would enhance the quality of the ensuing high-energy period.
Regardless of whether you are trying to be more productive in your academic endeavours, business or professional work, map your energy levels, plan your more routine tasks during low-energy periods and you will benefit through being more productive. Try it and let me know how you find this exercise. Thank you!
For more information on executive coaching programmes (conducted either ‘in person’ or via Skye – so location doesn’t matter!) or personal strategy, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.strategy-leadership.com
Please also visit Professor Kernbach’s websites in order to learn more about the work he does: https://mcm.unisg.ch/en/transfer/beratung/visual-collaboration-lab
Details of the July 2018 African Doctoral Academy Winter School will soon be available: http://www0.sun.ac.za/ada/
We tend to view situations through our habitual lenses. Sometimes it is exciting to disrupt our approach so that we have a different perspective. For example, we could be curious and ask what would happen if we used the same framework and replaced expected components with new elements?
Let me give you an example: a traditional Christmas Dinner with family and friends sitting around a table could be something that most of us could picture.
Above is the photo of my daughter’s family gathering in Sydney Australia. If you look carefully, there is not much unusual about that photo. It is a happy picture where people are smiling and enjoying the company and good food. It is what we might expect to see.
What would happen if we took the same framework and replaced some of the components? It could disrupt our thinking! I smiled when I saw the similarities (and differences!) in the picture below in the Hilton Veterinary Hospital newsletter, also December 2017.
The purpose of my comparison is to help shake up your thinking through the questions that follow. (I’m not suggesting that we replace the joy of family gatherings by replacing people with dogs!)
Often the reason we don’t understand situations or a person’s behaviour is that our perceptions are based on our own context. Purposeful disruption can help us to adopt an ‘attitude of positive discontent’. Things don’t always have to stay the same. Sometimes our ideas (regarding change) are not going to work or be advantageous to anyone. But at least we have then explored possibilities and are more confident that we should leave things the way they are.
We need to ask ourselves what would happen if we changed either the context or some elements and then explore differences and similarities.
My questions for you are:
- If you were to choose the people whom you’d most want around that table, who would they be?
- How nutritious would the conversation be?
- What routines or rituals are holding you back in any area of your life?
- In which areas of your life are you ‘stuck’ with ‘inside the box’ thinking in your private or business life?
- Where else could disruptive thinking benefit you?
- Who really is the ‘top dog’ in your life?
Often we have a choice as to whether we will ‘rise from the ashes’ or stay downtrodden. Our perception and attitude are determinants of our current and future states and whether the obstacles holding us back can be overcome.
It is exciting to hear stories of people turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
Shan Pillay’s achievements are an excellent example of this. I was delighted when Shan, a South African friend of fifty-years standing, sent me the copy of a letter showing that a doctorate was being conferred on him by The International Tamil University, USA. This letter indicates that he will hold a D Litt, USA and be acknowledged for his contribution to humanity at the graduation ceremony in India in December 2017.
Shan had very humble beginnings. His family lived in a complex known as ‘The Barracks’ in an area designated for the Indian Community in my home city, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. There every family had an apartment so small that some members slept in the kitchen. For thirteen families there was one communal ablution area.
At age 15 years, Shan started his first job in a shoe factory. In order to give him clothes to wear to work, his mother took a pair of his brother’s old shorts and sewed a patch on the back. At the factory, he became known as ‘The Boy in Shorts’.
My husband and I have been friends of Shan’s for more than 50 years. My father-in-law opened his shoe factory on my husband’s 21st birthday. Being a family business, that is where my husband worked at the time. Shan was the factory manager of Jaguar Shoes which also had small beginnings in an old bakery and later rose to being quoted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Over the years Shan’s family grew and on his son, Nellan’s 21st birthday, Nellan started work for my husband and me in our group of retail clothing stores. There he rose to the position of manager and worked for us for 10 years. He left in order to start his own shoe factory. Of course, as this was an area in which Shan excelled, I’m sure he was an integral part of Nellan’s success.
In addition to being dynamically involved and receiving international recognition in the South African shoe manufacturing industry, Shan was actively involved in ‘the struggle’ for democracy in South Africa. He has wonderful stories to tell and a fascinating network of relationships. These include top political and other leaders in the country.
At one stage during the apartheid era, the Police suspected Shan of being involved in the bombing of the Supreme Court, Pietermaritzburg where the first activists were charged with Treason. He was surrounded by the special branch in Edendale, held for questioning and later released. Shan publicly acknowledges that it was his boss, my brother-in-law Roy Eckstein, who provided an alibi. Roy gave evidence that at that time, Shan was transporting factory workers back to Edendale, an African rural area which was later incorporated into our City.
Shan is the only Indian alive today who attended the historic conference where the world icon and statesman, Nelson Mandela made his demands for nothing less than a one-man-one-vote for a democratic South Africa. In 1999 when Mandela was accorded the Freedom of the City of Pietermaritzburg, Shan was invited to share his experience of that historic conference with the President himself.
Another area in which Shan has excelled is in his free-lance work as a photo-journalist. Over the years he has, as an insider, captured many historic moments in our country’s history. He continues to capture pivotal moments in the life of our country and in his friend’s lives, too. We have been privileged to have Shan photograph and journal many of the celebratory moments in our personal lives.
Shan values his friendships. Last year I felt honoured when I was invited to present one of the speeches at his 80th birthday party. It was a privilege to celebrate with a man who is held in high regard by leaders in society, business and family. We were engulfed by the tangible warmth and love shown by those present particularly by family. As patriarch he plays an ongoing vital role in the lives of three generations. This sprightly octogenarian gave an erudite, appreciative address worthy of his new academic status.
Shan has overcome many obstacles. Isn’t it interesting how he has ‘risen from the ashes’? His lack of formal education combined with his coming from an impoverished background could have been stumbling blocks. But they have not held him back. He is now being afforded the highest University academic honour through his contribution to humanity. And his ‘way of being’ enriches those with whom he interacts. This is a credit to his and his family’s achievements.
You can see that he leads a life following his passion. This includes his love of humanity, particularly his family, South Africa and India. Well done, Shan! We commend you and your wonderful family.
Questions for readers:
- How might your beginnings be holding you back?
- What are you doing to overcome those perceived stumbling blocks?
- How are you acknowledging the contribution of others?
- Where have you ‘risen from the ashes’ either physically or emotionally?
- What part has attitude played?
- What legacy are you going to leave – for your family or your country?
I was interested to read that the practice of dedicating a book through inscribing it to a specific person used to be done to gain patronage or support of that person. Nowadays writers may dedicate their books as a mark of respect, gratitude or affection. This is my intention in dedicating my new book, ‘FLOW: how to turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones’ to my mother, Mavis:
With deep gratitude I’m dedicating this first book in the FLAGS series to my precious mother, Mavis, who at the age of 94 continues to inspire me and help me to grow. She, my father, Campbell, and the elders of the McGladdery tribe, provided the sound base from which I could venture forth and live life to the fullest, turning my stumbling blocks into stepping stones. They taught me the strength of total adherence to values and principles. From them I learnt resilience, a positive outlook and love of humanity, starting with family. They also imbued a passion and appreciation of the beauty of nature.
This golden thread weaves through enriching my role as wife, mother, grandmother and friend.
Brenda Eckstein – 2016
‘Flow: how to turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones’ is available on Amazon in both the Kindle version and paperback. Above is a photo from Chapter 14, ‘Using resources creatively’. This is one of the 28 different stories providing motivational messages in the book.
To read more about the book, please visit the ‘EYES Publishing’ page of our website. Thank you!
- If you were to write a new book, what would the title be?
- Who would you dedicate the book to?
- What would the reasons for your dedicating this book to this person be?
For more information on our coaching programmes, please visit https://strategy-leadership.com/