The gender pay gap update

The gender pay gap still exists – and it gets in the way of abundant leadership.

Abundant leadership is important to us at the Forton Group. Whether that’s an abundance of women, of the inter-generational workforce or diversity of culture, colour and styles. We love it.  Because it creates innovation, better leadership and creativity. professional women still experience the gender pay gap

So, whilst we’re not happy about the subject, we are happy to share some updated information that may support your career development. Continue reading

Teamcoaching vs Teambuilding

Is it just me, or has ‘teamcoaching’ taken over as a buzzword, when really what we mean is ‘teambuilding’ or vice versa?  We get asked to deliver a lot of teamcoaching and teambuilding assignments. It’s an area of work where I derive great satisfaction.

Why?  Because the results are typically immediate:

Teamcoaching: a team working at a table

Group of Business People in a Teamcoaching Meeting

  • Improved colleague understanding and appreciation of each other
  • Willingness to work through issues and problems
  • Pride in mutual success

The independent coach can facilitate discussion, bring new perspectives and shine a light in dark corners.

I’ve had some interesting conversations recently about the difference between teambuilding events and teamcoaching.

So, what do I think is the difference?  I’d love to hear your viewpoint too.

Article by: Helen Caton Hughes

Continue reading

professional women still experience the gender pay gap

3 myths about “Manager as Coach”

As organisations explore the communication skill set needed by managers, those labelled a ‘coaching’ are coming under greater scrutiny.

Full disclosure: Forton is an elite sponsor of next month’s Creating a Competitive Edge through Coachin symposium, organized by the International Coach Federation.

We see the symposium as an opportunity to challenge the myths and sort out facts from hype.

This is what organisations say when they start along the ‘manager as coach’ route:

  1. Our managers don’t have time for this
  2. We can’t afford for managers to go soft on tough performance targets
  3. We can’t risk them getting trained up then leaving to become a life coach

Let’s look at these more closely.

Time

Time is a precious commodity.  So why spend time listening to team members when managers could just be telling them what’s needed?

Coaching skills, such as listening, powerful questions and supporting people are investments in time that reap valuable rewards.

Putting a figure on the value of a team member feeling listened to and understood is the cost of that person leaving because their boss lacks these skills.  (About 18 months of time, salary and benefits, according to the CMI.)

Being trained in coaching skills is an investment in staff engagement, which is closely linked to the business bottom line.

Soft Skills

Managers who coach are the most business-like people in the room, because they listen to the full range of experience and opinion from team members, before making a decision.

There’s nothing ‘soft’ about coaching skills. They’ve been shown to improve performance – markedly – delivering on time and to budget.  Coaching received by an expert business coach like Lars Godbersen supports people stepping up and taking responsibility. It aligns particularly well with “Agile” and similar methodologies, where collaboration is critical to success.

Retention

The ‘if we train them, they’ll leave’ myth is powerful, based on fear of losing good people.

The great jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong left the band that gave him his first breaks.  When people asked the bandleader – who mentored Armstrong – how he felt about losing him, the response was “I was lucky to have him playing second cornet, as long as I did.  I always knew I’d lose him one day.”

Supporting people to develop their career is a vital leadership skill, and good managers never forget those people who mentored them along the way.

There’s also another myth hidden here – about become a professional coach.  Gaining the qualifications, setting up a business from scratch and getting those first breaks takes effort, fortitude and energy.  When people find out just how challenging this step is, only those with single-minded determination take this path.

If your organisation is thinking about introducing coaching and communication skills, to improve performance, support successful appraisals, or improve engagement, use an experienced coach-training organisation like Forton.

  • We’re accredited by both the ICF and CMI to deliver leadership, coaching and mentoring skills.
  • We offer half-day one-off training to tailored blended-learning programmes.
  • We’ve trained organisations like BT, Network Rail and the NHS for over 15 years.
  • We are preferred suppliers to the UN and work with organisations of all shapes and sizes from SMEs to global corporates.

For details, contact info@thefortongroup.com, or come and talk to us at the ICF symposium, and let’s debunk those manager as coach myths.

women's boots

The unconscious bias that leads to invisible women

My safety boots come out for an airing every so often; they’re very comfortable.  They’ve seen the Glasgow train line at 3 in the morning; more warehouses than I care to remember, and they’ve been restoring our home too.

They’re not pink.  They don’t have a daft name like “Barbie”. And, most importantly, they fit.

I don’t think about them from one month to the next, because why should I have to?

And then I read about the research Caroline Criado Perez has carried out for her latest book Invisible Women.  She talks in this article about a world which is literally designed for the average man, from crash test dummies to the size of your phone.

I first met Caroline when my daughter and I supported her protest outside the Bank of England, to get a woman (apart from the Queen) back onto a UK banknote.

My proudest moment was suggesting we dress as our heroines: I went as Gertrude Jekyll (Heritage England reckons day visits to famous gardens contributes around £5bn annually to UK coffers).  Caroline was there as scientist Rosalind Franklin.

Don’t get me started on the size of gardening equipment: spade sizes were standardised around the 1900s – to suit shorter male miners.  Now we have ladies’ garden tools: lighter and ineffectual.

I’m lucky to be able to forget about the unconscious bias that affects women most days; I’m taller than average and so fit into many designed-for-men situations. I also get to adjust the office heating at my leisure.

From this position of privilege, what can I contribute?

The work on how to reduce unconscious bias is relevant here.

The challenge is that many people – women and men – don’t realise that 50% of the world’s population may be excluded because of design, engineering and construction flaws geared towards the masculine body.

Recent studies indicate that this bias may be the only reason women are held back in the workplace.  Harvard Business Review concluded that “Women are underrepresented in the C-suitereceive lower salaries, and are less likely to receive a critical first promotion to manager than men.[i]”  Their conclusion? “Gender inequality is due to bias, not differences in behavior.”

I welcome Caroline’s book, because while it may inflame a few delicate male sensitivities, it’s a salutary reminder that much of this imbalance is unintended.  Outdated. Unconscious.

There are plenty of men aghast at the imbalance; happy to support ways to enable better access.

Women pay the same for their theatre or cinema tickets as men, yet have to spend more time queuing to use the facilities because of (unconscious) poor design.

I once attended a talk where the panel included Dame Katherine Whitehorn, who told us about an airport where she was invited to advise on lift facilities to the departure lounge.

“Great” was her comment when inspecting the lift taking prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs up several levels; “But where’s the lift to take them down when they return?”

Stakeholder consultation is a great way to overcome unconscious bias.

Just ask people.

Make the unconscious, conscious.

But here’s the secret: listen to what they say, and act on it.

I once organised age-relevant building design consultation events; ostensibly to support older people in their homes and the workplace.  What the industry discovered, to no woman’s surprise, was that inclusive design benefits everyone.

This matters to the world of work in many walks of life; not just the airline or construction industries.

When we listen to our employees, we discover the visible and invisible barriers keeping women out of certain sectors and industries.  Whether it’s the warmth of the office, the position of seatbelts, accelerator or brakes in a car, or the PPE that fits properly, some of these issues needs an international, collective response, and some require minor adjustments.

[i] A Study Used Sensors to Show That Men and Women Are Treated Differently at Work, by Stephen Turban, Laura Freeman, Ben Waber, Harvard Business Review, October 23, 2017 Updated October 26, 2017.

Revolution

The Leadership Revolution

You might be forgiven for looking around and thinking that leadership is broken.  Or maybe you’re finding the struggle to recruit, retain and reward the best people more challenging than ever.

Uncertainty is a key word right now.

Morale is dropping: whether because of underperformance, or managers putting up with low expectations, when decisions are made to cut costs which directly compete with peoples’ needs.

As quickly as the HR department issues policies to create more flexible workplaces, another department imposes rules that reduce choice. For anyone seeking for advice about leadership check this article: 4 KEY APPEARANCE PRESENTATIONS OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP it will sure help you.

Caught in the middle are leaders and managers trying to do a good job; to make others’ lives better, when promotion or pay rises are just not available to reward them.

Call me a wide-eyed optimist, but I do see hope on the horizon.

It starts with our own leadership.

Running our Communication Intelligence programme inside a large organisation last week, Jeremy Fouts said“I can do this, because it takes the weight off me”.

They were talking about shifting attitudes: from their own need to tell people what to do and how to do it, towards a bigger sense of responsibility in the whole team, through more intelligent conversations.

But it does mean looking at what we do leaders, as much as what others are doing or not doing.

Some managers are stuck in ‘parent/child’ relationships which create dependency; the boss feels the need to have all the answers; to tell people ‘how to do their job properly’.  They like people coming to them for solutions.

You can see why. It provides a sense of power and the illusion of control.

The irony is that those same managers don’t like being told they’re not doing their job properly, when they’re prepared to say that to others.

Leaders tell me that the desire to retain control is their darkest secret, and one that they’re reluctant own up to.

There is good news, and it’s a leadership revolution.

In my experience, it’s that people simply need a wider range of conversations skills, and to improve their Communication Intelligence.

It’s more apparent at the moment because it’s the year-end, where those performance reviews need to happen quickly.

The leadership revolution simply shifts away from telling and controlling, towards trust and autonomy, through better, more intelligent, conversations.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean drop all controls.  This is about adding a new tool to leadership toolkits, not throwing useful tools away.

Controls have their place, and so does this coach-like approach to leadership.

The Ignite programme we run for clients (part one of the Communication Intelligence Programme) has practical follow-up sessions, so that participants can share what works and where this approach can fit into their role.

So that performance conversations aren’t just an annual one-off, they’re part of a supportive, ongoing developmental style of leadership.

If you’d like to experience a bit of leadership positivity for yourself or a colleague, our next open programme is the 6th & 7th of March, simply contact us at info@thefortongroup.com for details.

Teamwork

Leadership Development: 3 tips for better teamwork

Because I get to train elite leadership coaches, I have the privilege of spending time with some great athletes: tennis players, rowers and canoeists, sailors, cyclists and people who’ve climbed Mount Everest.

At Forton we run ICF-accredited Team-Coach training programmes and I learn so much from the participants. Diary dates here

Here’s three top tips for you.

  1. Performance details matter. Matthew Pinsent once described how Jamie Cracknell obsessed over small details, and how this helped push the team over the finishing line into first place by inches. Listen to the team members who’re focused on facts and numbers.
  2. Synchronicity matters. A team isn’t just a group of individual experts brought together. It’s people who pull in the same direction, at the same time. Rowers breathe together, which improves operational focus, empathy with the team and alertness to the wider environment. Find ways to achieve help people work together well.
  3. And yes, play matters. When cycling from the Dead Sea to the Himalayas, Pauline Sanderson, author of the World’s Longest Climb, told us how a game of cricket with guards at the Pakistan border helped them maintain international relations and achieve their goal of getting across the country. Know when to stop arguing and start playing.

This is where HR or the L&D Team can make a huge difference

By investing in team development. And we’re not just talking about the under-performers either; investing in top performers creates motivation to excel.

  • Top teams outperform average ones by 39% on performance measures* alone. 
  • Improving the team’s positivity can make a 46% difference.  
  • *Source: Team Coach International

Listen to the team members who’re focused on facts and numbers.

Find ways to help people work together well.

Know when to stop arguing and start playing.

And when you develop your top performers’ coaching skills, the benefits get shared throughout the organisation.

Reserve a place today on the next Forton Team-Coach Training event. Small group sizes, inclusive accommodation and meals mean great value for money, and places are limited.

Or, if you have a team in mind that you want to help excel, we run this event in-house for teams of 6 or more. Drop us a note and we’ll get straight back to you.

change management

Welcome to VUCA World

If the world of leadership development and change management was a theme park, it would be called “VUCA World”. A chilling place, laced with black humour; a bit like the Vogon constructor fleet in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Everyone is choosing his own way to achieve his objectives. Some people seek for a specialized coaching plan (more at https://juliehancoaching.com/), some are ready to give a try to VUCA world.

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity.  There are currently four revolutions happening around the world– in IT, Energy, Manufacturing and Life Sciences.

If you’re in a start-up you’re in VUCA world. If you care about the environment, you’re in VUCA World. The digital economy affects your organisation? Yep. You guessed it. You’re in VUCA world.

The good news is that no-one reads Vogon poetry to you. (It’s the 3rd worst in the universe, according to Douglas Adams)

“You’ll end up opting for the Vogon Poetry session.”

VUCA World is a theme park you may already have experienced: full of change, bright flashing lights and sudden, dark corners.

  • Volatility: The roller-coaster in VUCA World isn’t just fast-moving with huge highs and lows. It cleverly combines those features with the thrills of the Ghost Train, as you never know what’s around the corner.
  • Uncertainty: You think you’ve queued up for one kind of experience, only to find you’re asked to get out, mid-ride, and take another car of unknown destination. Or you thought you’d opted for the stately ‘London Eye’ style ferris wheel, only to be whirled around in a giant teacup full of anxious kids.
  • Complexity: In VUCA World they believe that you take responsibility for your own choices and your own journey; so they remove the signposts that might clearly direct you to the rides (or the exit). Tickets make UK train travel look like a model of simplicity; prices are weighted by time, length of the ride, your age and your shoe size. Good news! There’s no gender discrimination in VUCA World, everyone can experience it for themselves.
  • Ambiguity: VUCA World announces its ambiguity in its public advertising. Its strapline is “You need change, but you don’t want it and won’t like it”. The ticket sellers love to give you vague options; their motivational posters read “one the one hand this, might be best, but on the other….” And the friendly VUCANs (your black-uniformed hosts) are especially trained to give you at least three optional routes when you ask for directions.

“Since the solutions don’t lie in the problems, hanging out in VUCA World won’t help.”

You’ll end up opting for the Vogon Poetry session.

Many of our clients recognise that they’re already in VUCA World, and they don’t like it.

At Forton, we see our role as a trusted, reliable guide, equipping leaders and managers to succeed in this dynamic.

Since the solutions don’t lie in the problems, hanging out in VUCA World won’t help.

Personally, I love designing bespoke leadership development programmes (accredited by the CMI and ICF) for our clients. Particularly creating foundational leadership platforms so that participants have the confidence to explore and understand what’s happening. Then encourage them to apply their skills supported by 1-1 coaching and group action learning.

What we don’t do is give them a predictable list of situations and get them to think through alternative courses of action. Or help them to better argue against someone else’s ideas. Or develop their competitive spirit.

Success in VUCA world comes from collaboration, co-operation and co-creation. From developing, mentoring and coaching others. Relationships with others, our empathy, our resilience and influence matter more than power.

One client organisation increased their sales success rate and staff retention (within the 1st three months of recruitment) by introducing our leadership coaching method. They switched out their former method of promoting the best sales people into manager roles and expecting them to mentor their team.

VUCA World is a tough place. If you’d like to share your experience of trying to lead and manage in this dynamic, feel free to unload in the comments box below. Or share your expertise of what works; whether it’s a leadership or coaching tool. It would be great to hear from you.

Ignite course

A very good place to start

Leaders and managers are catching up with the benefits of coaching and mentoring their people.

It improves performance, builds better teams and supports peoples’ career aspirations.

It’s an obvious win-win too.  Managers tell us how good it feels when they ‘give something back’ to their team.  Remember all that talk about ‘making a difference’?  That’s the feeling they have.

Where to start?

The choice can be confusing however. Here at Forton we make it easy for you.

We were the first ICF accredited leadership coach training programme over 15 years ago.  Today we’re also recognised by the Chartered Management Institute, because we give leaders and managers practical skills that support their demanding roles.

For anyone who needs to mentor and coach business leaders, executives and managers, we recommend you start with the ***Ignite workshop: 19 hours of live, interactive, small-group learning.

Why choose Ignite?

  • Ignite develops a manager’s own leadership skills (Manager as Coach)
  • Ignite is the first step in the Professional Leadership Coaching qualification
  • Ignite is for coaches who want to add executive and leadership coaching skills to their portfolio (Bridging Programme)

Smaller groups mean more individual attention to the questions, concerns and – yes – cynicism about the skills and benefits of coaching and mentoring.  It means people are more likely to apply their learning.

Choose from –

Leaders laughs

Leaders and a laugh out loud moment

You may wonder why leaders and managers resist coaching their teams, when the financial and personal benefits of coaching are so well known.

We regularly hear some great ‘reasons’ from individuals within some client organisations, so I laughed out loud when I read an article on the five myths that prevent leaders from coaching their team members.

In summary these are:

  • “My team don’t want my questions, they just want me to give them the answer.”
  • “I’ll coach them when they ask for it. They can ask for help.”
  • “No one is complaining, so everything is fine.”
  • “Good people self-correct when something goes wrong.”
  • “Our best team members want to be left alone to get on with their jobs.”

I’ll leave you to read the full article by Marcia Reynolds PhD, and I’d be interested to know whether any of these resonate with your experience (you can email me on helen.caton@thefortongroup.com to let me know.)

The solution we offer is to integrate coaching into organisations at two levels:

  1. Leadership coaching methods as part of a consistent, ongoing, development programme

This means that the language of coaching is organisation-wide; peer learning supports the less confident to develop and the more experienced to mentor others.  This is the ‘manager as coach’ level.

  1. Accredited coaching qualifications for a core group who will create an in-house coaching team

These people can provide formal 1-1 coaching; for example, to support career progression; to help establish new teams and projects; or to address challenges and nip them in the bud.

And independently-verified Case Study Evidence demonstrates the benefits of these two approaches.  It’s not us saying this, it’s organisations like Gallup, the University of Queensland and a world-class NHS hospital group.

And if you want to know more about how the Forton Group maximises better leadership and management through coaching skills, get in touch.

Diversity

Discovering Deep Diversity

Our Italian partners have invited me to present a keynote speech to their clients, and I’m very excited about the topic – diversity in leadership development.  Less excited about apologising for my poor Italian – but thank goodness they are gracious people.

Excited because this is an area I’m passionate about, and because presenting to a foreign audience means you have to get your arguments in line – and clear.  And it’s an area that continues to be a puzzle to people: there’s a willingness for greater diversity at leadership level, but there’s a glaring ‘say/do’ gap.

What we say we want is a cohort of diverse leaders.  In the words of one client “anyone who can deliver; is talented; is skilled; is a team-player and knows how to lead, coach and manage others”.

But at senior levels in organisations we overwhelmingly have older white men.  Now please; trust me when I say that I’m not anti-talented white men in leadership.  It’s just that when there are more men called John on British Boards than there are women, you know you’ve got a problem.

And you probably don’t need me to rehearse the business benefits: better results; higher engagement levels; lower staff turnover and absenteeism where you have balanced boards.  You know the arguments.  It’s also vital for your reputation that your leaders and spokespeople reflect the diversity of your customers, service users and their families.

If like me you coach women and minorities to present well at interview, you’ve probably heard the “not quite good enough on the day” argument given to outstanding candidates who lost out to those white men.

There’s an upside-down logic going on.  We say we want ‘talent and skill’ yet we see – and refuse to hire for – difference.  Whether that’s gender, race, culture, or social class.

I call this ‘deep diversity’.  To get the best people in leadership positions, we need to go beyond the superficial and dig deeper.  This isn’t to blame people for the state of today’s leadership teams.  It’s just that it’s time to move on and act positively for more diversity.

So, what’s happening?  What’s going on?

The problem starts in our brains with narrow thinking.  Our primitive (reptilian) brain is programmed to look for safety – which looks like “People Like Me”.  It’s called pattern matching.  And it’s time to outsmart our primitive brain behaviours.  It shows up in individual and collective bias; it can be both conscious and unconscious.  But it’s time to stop.

How do you teach 72 different types of bias? 

This isn’t positive discrimination or affirmative action.  It’s just doing what’s right.  I’ve been following the ‘unconscious bias’ research for several years now.  And like fellow colleagues in this field, the list was getting too big.

Adjust your brain’s behaviours in four simple steps:

  1. Outsmart your brain by accepting the need to consciously shift expectations.  You can do this individually, or systematically for groups, teams and departments.
  2. Practice noticing; be aware of the biases that crop up every day.
  3. Practice reflective learning: when you catch your brain indulging in bias, write it down, then forgive yourself – because we all do it.
  4. Act positively towards diversity: through awareness, training and hiring activities.

Balanced Leadership Teams

Then promote or hire for talent; for attitude; for potential; for values; and for diversity.  Let’s really take steps to get the best people in the role.  There’s a number of things that organisations already do that work:

We can achieve a balance between hiring (or promoting) for attitude and behaviours, not solely on past competence or skills.  We can have a broader interpretation of what “relevant skills” means:

  • Those life-skills that women bring when juggling budgets in growing families really help when thrift is vital in the workplace.
  • Or juggling the commitments of being a working wife, mother and daughter in law while holding down a senior technical, management or leadership role.

‘Blind hiring’ is on the increase

Just take out any distinguishing features from applications that may provoke bias: such as personal or university names; anything that indicates social class or confers status on a feature irrelevant to the role.  And let’s bring back the promotion board: so that, where possible, organisations set standards and promote on position-readiness, not putting unnecessary hurdles in peoples’ way.

You’re probably doing a lot of this already.  So if you’re ticking off each of these points and saying “Yep.  We do that” congratulations!

And if you think your organisation could use a nudge in this direction, get in touch.  We offer awareness workshops and short courses on ways to get the best people – and get the best out of people – regardless of their gender, culture or background.  Whether it’s increasing diversity, improving emotional intelligence, or outsmarting our brains, we can help.

Contact us at info@thefortongroup.com for details.