Coach training for experienced coaches: the Forton difference

If, like me, you’re an experienced coach working with executives and leaders in corporate settings, you may be wondering why you need to invest in specific leadership coaching training. Of course, you may be about to renew your credentials, which is a great reason to do this!

Here at The Forton Group, we provide a wide range of flexible ways of getting the CCEUs and supervision hours you require for ICF renewal.

But what’s different about leadership coaching, why should you add it to your kitbag and why The Forton Group? Continue reading

What can leaders learn from dogs barking at a postal carrier?

I had the great pleasure of running one of our Leadership Coaching Programs in Toronto last month.  Sunshine; great location; good company – what more could I want?

I was staying with our friends and colleagues, Cyndi and Ross, who have two delightful Golden Labradors. This has to be one of the friendliest breeds of dog. They love being around people, and are very enthusiastic and expressive. Continue reading

Our Man in Panama

I’ve just finished a week of working in Panama.  We’ve been running career development workshops for an international charity. It’s a fascinating country, whose recent history is dominated by the canal.  It’s a visionary project, still a vital lifeline for trade, operating 24 hours a day. The city is the headquarters for many charities.

I’d set off with a few pre-conceptions about what the people would be like.  They came from across South America, a continent I’ve never visited. I suspect that subconsciously, I was looking for proof to reinforce my stereotypes. I began to think about how often we do this, at many times in our life. Continue reading

What do HR Directors really look for in professional leadership development services?

There’s a lot of debate around what HR professionals are looking for from suppliers of leadership development services.  I was reminded of this when I came across some copies a PWC study* for the ICF (International Coach Federation) looking at purchasing decisions from a client perspective

Some people get technical – looking at profiling tools and tests such as MBTI, Firo-B (relationship behaviours) or DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance)

Others want to tailor products and services to their company.  Many invest in defining leadership competences or behaviours.

All of which is fine.  These approaches provide benchmark against which people can develop themselves and others in their team.

What PWC did is look at important attributes in the selection process and identify the most important aspects, under

  • Personal Attributes
  • Background
  • Experience
  • Reputation
  • Methodology

Under the topic of Personal Attributes, confidence, rapport and personal compatibility were deemed as most important by far of all the attributes.  And no surprise that effectiveness was the most important attribute under methodology. These four attributes were the most important to PWC’s respondents – by far.

The finding that ‘Personal referrals’ were more important than client references under Reputation was intriguing.  And it is revealing was that relevant professional experience was perceived as more important that ‘years as a coach’ under Experience.  I was also pleased to see that the level of ‘coach-specific training’ was most important in Background.

(source: *ICF Global Coaching Client Study, Association Resource Centre and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2009)

Our evaluation of professional Associates (Consultants, Coaches and Trainers) is that its’ this combination that matters and these are the questions we ask:

  • What leadership experience do you have?
  • What technical and skill areas do you have (outside of leadership development)?
  • What coach-specific training and qualifications do you have?
  • What learning do you have around the topic of developing leaders?

Rapport and personality come through when we meet with them – it’s key for their relationship with clients and we much prefer to do business with likeable people.  We also make sure that we personally hear each of them coach – so that we can really stand behind the quality of the professionals we work with.

So why does this matter?

I’m intrigued by organisations buying leadership coaching services and coaching skills training, without really thinking through what they need.  For example, one company were seeking recently seeking training with two accreditation options in mind – one at a low skills level and the other for an academic qualification.

My personal view is that the academic qualifications in coaching are for professionals with existing coach-specific training to explore the academic side of the profession – not for leaders and managers in the workplace who will only have time to dip into the theory.  At the other end of the scale, if an organisation wants to build an in-house coaching competency, then the training should be at a suitable level – with the option of a meaningful qualification.

One of the reasons we support the global standards of the ICF is that they transcend culture and diversity – whilst acknowledging local and regional difference.  Their accreditation process isn’t a walk-over either – as I’m experiencing first hand at the moment.

The ICF also recognise successful coaching programmes through their ‘PRISM’ award.  I was involved in the recent ICF Global Conference in London and was very impressed by the quality of the winners – especially by the evidence they put forward that showed the difference coaching was making in their organisations.

Recent PRISM award winners include

  • Genentech: considered the founder of the biotechnology industry, using human genetic information to discover, develop, manufacture and commercialise medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions.  The company sees coaching as increasing their capacity for change.
  • TINE Group: NOrways most important contributor to value creation and the country’s leading supplier of food products – TINE provides a health and positive food experience.  The company sees coaching as a leadership skill.

Some resources for you

We’ve got spare copies of the Case Studies and the PWC report (only 12 copies – so first come, first served) here in the office.

If you’d like to receive a copy of either the report or the case studies, simply drop us an email at info@thefortongroup.com and we’ll do the rest.

Leadership and listening beyond the words

Last week, we launched our flagship leadership coach training product, Ignite, in Italy. I had the great pleasure of spending time with our partners in Rome.  They ran the course for a dozen leaders and coaches keen to learn our model.  My job was to listen, observe and support – and my biggest challenge was the listening.

I think it would be fair to say that learning new languages has never been one of my strengths – although I’m happy to be convinced this is merely a belief, and look forward to some offers of great coaching on this topic! Over the years, about the furthest I have got is to learn how to order a beer and ask for the bill. I’m proud to say I can now do this in eight different languages.

However, this limited vocabulary was going to be of little use to me as I observed my colleagues run the program. I had also promised to say a few words to kick the thing off, and thought it might be a bit early in the day for a beer, so I added another phrase to my vocabulary – “Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano” which ( I hope) means “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian”.

They were very tolerant of me and, after I’d finished, I sat quietly at the back of the room and watched the experts get on with running the course. As I was listening, I saw what a great practical example this was of what we always knew about learning – that it is about more than just the words.

It is often said that only 7% of the success of our communications is down to the words we use. Albert Mehrabian published research in 1981 where the 7-38-55 rule first appeared – 7% of the message is conveyed by words, 38% by tone of voice, and 55% by body language. In fact, his research was much narrower, about how we convey and interpret feelings – the rule determines how much we like someone when they’re talking about their feelings. It’s been incorrectly applied more widely over the years.

However, other studies have come up with a range of different ratios showing the importance of words versus the non-verbal elements and there clearly is a contribution to the success of our communication from both. When we deliver our leadership coach training programme, we are always flexing our style between trainer, facilitator and coach. My inability to understand Italian became less important as I could clearly see my colleagues using these different styles.

It was a great reminder about some core lessons about listening. It’s a vital skill for coaches to have and, of course, for leaders too. There are many reasons why this is so. For example, how often do we hear about major disasters that have ruined the reputation of companies where somebody in the organisation could see it was going to happen but nobody listened to them.

Also, when you think back to the great bosses, that you have had, my guess is that one quality they all share was that you felt listened to, and that builds loyalty and engagement.

The good news is that it’s possible to build this muscle – and the bad news is it needs constant practice. If you’d like to look at slightly different approach to improving your listening, then I’d recommend  “The Listening Book” by W.A. Mathieu.

I’d be really interested to hear your tips on building the skill of listening; how it impacts on your leadership, and any books you’d recommend. Buon ascolto!”

Employee engagement – the key to organisational success

One of my coaching clients works for possibly one of the worst bosses in the world.  Their colleagues spend all day playing computer games.   The physical environment of the office isn’t great.  Yet despite all that, this client loves their work; they keep putting the hours in, they keep churning work out, they remain sanguine about the surroundings and just exude positivity.   They are a real pleasure to be with.    Whatever they have, I wish I could bottle it; because their behaviour under those circumstances is rare. Continue reading

Leadership development anywhere in the world

I had a really interesting, productive and enjoyable time last week; I was in Toronto working with my friends and colleagues, Cyndi Calluori and Mark Delvecchio. We’ve wanted to develop our leadership programmes for people anywhere in the world and the joy of the new digital technologies available to us, is that this is now possible!

So we got together to create a virtual version of our leadership coach training programme: we sorted the modules into a series of one and a half hour sessions that can be run over the phone or via the web.  This allows people to train with us who perhaps can’t currently make our existing in-person sessions, or who can’t spare the time for that kind of training, and we can deliver it to leaders anywhere in the world.

Working with Cyndi again reminded me of how fortunate we are to have such an experienced coach and coach trainer in the Group.  One of our existing tele-classes is a series of six one hour calls where Cyndi coaches one of her clients. The great thing about this is that participants get to hear how a coaching relationship develops over time, which is very different from the demonstrations people get in the classroom.

I really value the time and commitment the client gives to these sessions, and the care Cyndi takes to ensure confidentiality, privacy and a safe space for the client – whilst also demonstrating great leadership coaching!

Working with Cyndi is great fun.  She and I are both ENFPs for those of you familiar with Myers Briggs. One interpretation of that personality trait, which Cyndi and I would obviously disagree with, is that we talk a lot and don’t really get anything done……. Luckily, we had Mark with us to keep is on track and so we’re looking forward to launching this in the near future. Watch this space…

The other fun part – and it’s certainly true that ENFPs need to break their day up with fun things – was recording some video blogs which we’ll be putting out over the next few weeks running up to the ICF conference in October. It’s amazing how long it can take to do this – and the one of the best bits was listening back to all the mistakes we made. I’ve created a short video of outtakes and may have the courage to release it sometime soon!

The Golden Rules of Leadership Coaching

I really enjoy the work we do training leaders and business owners to be more coach- like in their leadership and management styles.  Some of them go on to take professional coaching qualifications with us.  This means we attract some of the brightest thinkers in leadership around the world, and the debates we have are rich and interesting.

On the first day of last week’s course, I said “If there’s one rule in coaching….” I said the same on day two, and the group began to wonder how many more “One rules” there might be!

In fact, I’ve probably got five ‘rules’ that I’d like to share with you; and I’d really welcome your feedback

  • Golden Rule #1: Coach the person, not the ‘problem’

It doesn’t matter what you call it: the challenge, the topic or the ‘issue’; we coach people, not problems.  We might be able to help our client solve the problem – once. But the real power comes from working deeper, to bring sustainable change.

  • Golden Rule #2: Everything the Coach does is in service of the client

The questions, the silences and listening; even the interrupting, being direct, being supportive – and sometimes being quite playful or ‘rude’: only in service of the client, not our egos!

  • Golden Rule #3: Leadership coaching is about choice

We have far more control over our lives than we think – the choices we make, the things we say and do, even (especially!) our emotions. Coaching opens our clients up to see they are resourceful and have resources around them that can help them achieve their vision, objectives or goals.  They see possibility.

  • Golden Rule #4: If it’s hard going, is it really coaching?

Use humour and lightness to move your clients into the creative side of their brains: and use stillness and playfulness to get your own focus too.

Which leads me to…

  • Golden Rule #5: there are no rules!

 

“There’s a better way”

Captain’s Blog

Stardate 120709

It’s been a great week discussing leadership with participants at our Foundation Course in Leadership Coaching – a diverse mix of people from small businesses, the NHS and leadership development organisations.

What I find important is to remember that it’s people who create leadership, rather than organisations, which is why coaching is such a personal process.  Sure it can be a ‘one-to-many’ activity, where groups of people work with a coach to achieve a common goal, but it’s always personal: it’s about making human connections and building leadership from those connections, not the performance targets or statistics.

Bob Hughes

Bob Hughes

I was reminded this evening that even when people achieve high office, such as getting onto a Board of Directors, it’s not the position that’s important, it’s having a voice on that board: being heard, being influential and making a difference in the situation in which leaders find themselves in.  This is what people call ‘situational leadership’ – apparently in the military it’s known as ‘point leadership’ – the ability to step up and lead from wherever you are.

Leadership is also about getting across one key message: “there’s a better way”.  If the way we’re currently doing something is ok, why change?  People with leadership qualities see the better way, they gather up their courage to speak out and gain allies when they put their ideas across.


My husband Bob had a great opportunity to demonstrate situational leadership on the national news this evening.  We were thrilled when we bought an 18th century house and had the opportunity to mix 21st century solar panels and green technologies with traditional building materials.  Our roof has a marvellous pattern in tiles, lovingly restored by the builders.  On the back of the house is a set of glistening, photo-voltaic cells, which look like large black mirror tiles, generating between a third and a half of our daily energy needs.

We were called to participate in the debate on the BBC, on the Government’s plans to announce the ‘feed-in’ tariffs, which pay small-scale generators like us for the contribution we make back to the national grid.  Bob has enjoyed working with our suppliers, Solar Century http://www.solarcentury.co.uk/, partly because we share their vision to have solar systems on the roof of every building in the UK.  Of course this will need to be backed up by other micro-renewables, and the aim is to create clean power and achieve deep cuts in carbon emissions.

So Bob showed leadership by having the courage to be interviewed live by BBC News 24, from a studio in Birmingham and Solar Century, the organisation, show leadership in pioneering this technology.  Of course, it’s not an organisation, it’s people like Founder Jeremy Leggett , who established Solarcentury to address the threat of climate change, who really make the difference.  Leaders inspire their teams to succeed, and they communicate a vision of what they want to achieve.  We may admire the brands created by successful companies, but it’s the people behind them who matter.

So here’s my manifesto for leadership: it’s about people who see that there’s a better way, they step up and they speak out, gaining allies as they do so.  In today’s environment – economic and ecological – we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done before; we need people to show us ‘the better way’.