Session 15: Health and Safety


The second half day optional module on the Leading from the Middle programme and the final session. Rather than a straight up session on health and safety itself, the focus was on our responsibilities as leaders in ensuring a culture of workplace safety and our responsibilities and obligations under law, specifically as pertains to the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.

The session was divided into five units of work. The first unit was on the roles and responsibilities of line mangers in ensuring that the university’s commitment to health and safety is fully cascaded to all staff, and the need for us to lead by example in embedding this culture throughout all of the university’s activity. Leading on from this, the second unit covered the university’s policies and procedures relating to health and safety and what responsibilities we each have for ensuring that the university environment is safe for all. For myself, this includes leading on risk assessments for my team, monitoring the office environment, and resolving any potential hazards as they are discovered or arise.

Unit 3 went into the detail of how to assess and control risk. For a practical exercise in this we were presented with a scenario, a picture of a large kitchen area that you would see in, for example, a hotel, and were asked to identify all of the potential hazards, e.g. open flames, hot surfaces, sharp corners, water near electrical outlets, etc. There was something about the image, perhaps the angle, that reminded me of the scene in Jurassic Park where the velociraptors got into the kitchen in pursuit of the kids. We were then introduced to the university’s risk assessment matrix which scores the risk of an activity by assessing the likelihood of an accident occurring against the severity of the potential injury on a scale of 1 to 25. I had to concede that though rampaging velociraptors are highly unlikely, there is a good chance of fatality in such a scenario, therefore warranting a score of 5 on our matrix. According to our guidelines, with such a low score no corrective action needs to be taken to lower the risk, but the activity should continue to be monitored.

Unit 4 covered how to investigate accidents and incidents. First we were introduced to two conceptual models on how accidents happen. The Swiss Cheese Model posits that when an accident happens it is because of a series of holes in barriers and safeguards which align, and the Domino Theory which depicts an accident as a cascade of events. We then discussed how to investigate an incident in order to uncover both the direct and root causes, and the university’s obligations under RIDDOR, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.

Finally, unit 5 covered how health and safety performance is measured at the university. This includes both proactive methods such as audits and inspections which are informed by our policies and procedures, and reactive activities such as recording accidents and near misses.

Session 14: Leading Equality and Diversity


The penultimate session of the course began with a fairly cringe-worthy ice-breaker exercise in which we were tasked with matching some very diverse faces with names and occupations. Knowing the nature of the session we were naturally at pains not to apply stereotypes, placing us in a situation of double and triple guessing ourselves, rendering the exercise somewhat moot. Thankfully it didn’t take too long before we moved on.

The session was delivered by a guest academic who has spent their career researching gender equality and she gave us a brief history of her work which includes a chapter in the forthcoming Re-reading Spare Rib. Recommended further reading included When Giants Learn To Dance and A Tale of O – A story on Diversity.

We then discussed the problems of stereotyping and how gendered language can disadvantage women in business. For example, describing leaders as ‘self-confident, assertive and inspirational’ is problematic as these attributes do not match gender stereotypes of women as ‘nice, friendly and sensitive’, but do match male stereotypes such as ‘dominant, assertive and forceful’, with the potential result being lowered evaluations of women as leaders.

This led on to a discussion of bias, the inclination towards or prejudices for or against something, both explicit and unconscious. This isn’t necessarily negative as it allows our brains to make quick decisions based on prior knowledge and experience, but it is important to be aware that we have them. An example of research in this area was provided that showed racial discrimination in the interview selection process by submitting identical CVs with different names on them, those with a ‘white sounding name’ were almost a third more likely to be selected for interview.

Some advice was given on how to mitigate the effects of organisational bias, including first of all being aware of one’s own and organisational biases, sifting CVs blindly looking at content only, being careful with the use of gendered language in adverts and descriptions, and using aggregate scoring in selection. We also covered equality and diversity legislation, including the nine protected characteristics.

A task we were given to assess our own biases was to take one or two Implicit Association Tests. I took two tests which is both cases showed that I had a moderate bias towards one particular side. In the ‘Countries’ test, for example, it was revealed that I had a slight preference towards the UK over the US. I’m not quite sure how valuable this exercise was. This outcome struck me as unexpected and logical, given that I have lived in the UK all of my life and was therefore able to more quickly recognise those statements and things which pertained to the UK than the US.

Finally, in the latter half of the afternoon we were split into two teams and pitted against each other to design a game of some kind that would teach colleagues something about equality and diversity. My team came up with ‘Career Ladders and Snakes in the Grass’, a variant of snakes and ladders but with different rules for men and women. If you draw the male card you get a head start, draw the female card and you can only roll a maximum of four, both rules designed to show how much harder women have to work to get ahead. There were a couple of special themed squares on the board. The Glass Ceiling square towards the top of the board which, if you land on while playing the female card you get stuck on until you roll a six to break through the ceiling, and the Dark Knight square, the full meaning of which I couldn’t possibly explain here as it is a little bit of black humour relating to something that has been happening here at Sunderland as part of the review of staff.

We played each other’s games and I’ve had my own team play ‘Career Ladders and Snakes in the Grass’ and, interestingly, in both cases the person who drew the female card won! Also in both cases the female card was drawn by men who were very annoyed when the rules were explained to them on the grounds that it was unfair, which of course was exactly the desired reaction. The other team’s game was a variant of Trivial Pursuit with the questions relating to equality and diversity issues. We won. Our game was declared the best and most fun. Not that I’m competitive at all.

Session 13: Leading Change and Transition


The morning session for today was given over to a discussion on the related concepts of change and transition, and importantly the difference between them, and was heavily contextualised to address the university’s cross institutional review of support staff which is now reaching its conclusion.

We began by considering the drivers for change in the HE context, consistently returning to what we felt was the one huge macro factor acting on the education sector nationally and internationally, and for a number of decades now, namely the process of the implementation of a neoliberal philosophy, and the shift away from viewing education as a public good that benefits the whole of society. This has driven competition between HEIs to attract students, especially in the last few years as the UK has undergone a demographic dip in the number of eighteen year olds while the government has simultaneously cracked down on international student recruitment. This led us to consider how the university has responded to these changes. With students now being the direct source of the majority of university income, one response has been to try and find ways of providing students with a good return on their investment in their education. We have also found new ways of expanding the market, by taking over an institution in Hong Kong for example, and by reviewing our estate portfolio to find efficiencies, and implementing the cross institutional review which was aimed at streamlining the support staff structure.

In this context we were introduced to the work of William Bridges, specifically Managing Transitions. Bridges distinguishes between change and transition by defining change as something that is situational, e.g. getting a new manager or moving to a new office, and transition as a psychological process that people have to go through as they are dealing with change. This, he argues, is something that cannot be rushed, that people have to go through at their own pace, and that the role of a leader is to help them manage this process and guide them with positivity and sensitivity.

He defined three phases of transition, ending or letting go, the neutral zone, and new beginnings. It is the neutral zone and the uncertainty that comes with it that he argues is the most difficult time for people. Part of the reason for this is that there is a temptation for people to either want to cling to the old ways of working, or else move on to a new situation too quickly, not giving them enough time to explore options and possibilities, both of which can cause a change initiative to fail.

This led on to the work of John Kotter who published research in 1996 showing that 70% of change initiatives ended in failure, a figure which has not been shown to have significantly declined in later studies. He suggests that one way to improve this is by involving staff in the story surrounding the change, as it has been shown that people are more committed to something when they have chosen it or at least have had some input.

Something I really liked from Kotter’s article, which was provided as a handout, was the section on role modelling which talked about self-serving bias and how this can be found in leaders who rate themselves as better agents of change than they actually are. The anecdote about Kevin Sharer attempting to get past this by asking his employees ‘What should I do differently?’ stuck a cord with me and is something I may try using with my team to inform my own feedback and for use in the assessment of this course.

The afternoon was given over to the computer based EduChallenge Simulator which was designed to give us experience of implementing a major change in an HE context. The simulator placed us in the position of a change agent at the fictional Humfield University, our purpose to persuade the Dean of the Graduate School of Management to implement the new AcadQual system for improving academic quality which has been adopted by the rest of the university. The simulator gives you six months, 120 days, in which to complete this task.

This was an interesting exercise with a lot of potential. It was good to experience the other side of a change implementation, but it was hampered by the extremely dated software. The main problem being around the way language has changed since the software was written, over a decade ago from what I found in my probing. Activities like ‘Electronic Mail’ don’t work at all as you would expect. Instead, to send a message out to all staff you have to use a ‘Memorandum’. Then there is the obscure and bizarre, the ‘The Sandwich Meeting’ and the ‘One-Legged Interview’ for example. There is descriptive text which is meant to describe what these are, but we found that it was rarely helpful, and only in carrying out an action, using up precious days, did you actually learn what it did. This made the exercise clunky and annoying; it felt very unfair. This is a shame as I can see the value in the activity, it just needs to be updated to make it more intuitive and useful again.

Session 12: Creativity and Entrepreneurial Learning


Ah, the return of Lego Serious Play! But first we had a warm-up exercise to think of as many new and innovative ways to monetise a ton of ball bearings which we had acquired at low cost, selling them to manufactures of pachinko machines or using them in fashion for example. This was designed to set the theme for the day, developing a creative and problem solving mindset.

Lego Serious Play was introduced as a way of transferring an internal mental map or concept into an external physical form that can be shared, examined and discussed to get other people’s opinions and therefore help you to reach greater clarity. Also emphasised were the importance of the act of building without giving it too much prior thought, using metaphor to tell your story, and questioning the model and story during the discussion phase rather than the person directly.

The first model we were asked to build was an individual one in three parts, the first part showing your superpower, the second showing a secondary, under-utilised superpower, and the third the barrier or barriers that stop you from using it. My model, shown in the photo above, shows my superpower of diligence and attention to detail (somehow) being used to lead my team across a sea of troubled waters to success, as represented by the shining tower and gold bar; the second part, my underused power, is technical ability which I don’t get to use as much now; and the third part, I don’t want to say too much about what it means as I had something very specific in mind, is meant to be the evil Tower of Sauron looking over everything with a broken heap that needs fixing at the base.

There followed a discussion on the difference between working in your business and working on your business, designed to show that as a leader your resources are best placed by developing and empowering your team so that you can focus on forward thinking and strategy. This was evidenced by case studies and research summaries showing that team based start-ups and organisations with team based structures tend to be more successful as they can call on a greater variety of talent and networks.

The second exercise with Lego was a team build where we had to construct a model to demonstrate how we were going to reduce the environmental impact of a large multi-national corporation. Each team then had to pitch their idea to a stand-in company board. My team’s model demonstrated a recycling bank which scanned a code on empty packaging and gave a credit back to the customer which they could choose to keep or donate to an environmental cause. At the top of the bank was a live read out of the corporation’s carbon footprint which should be showing a decrease as each item is recycled. We won.

Finally the day ended with a discussion about the factors that can enable or hinder creative thinking. Enablers include time, space, rewards, having an open mindset, a supportive organisational culture, clear goals, and a committed leadership who can motivate their staff. Factors that can hinder include the anchoring trap (over-relying on your first thoughts), giving the status quo an advantage over any options for change, the sunk cost fallacy (committing yourself to a course of action that is already under way, even if there is evidence that it isn’t working), confirmation bias (looking only for evidence that supports your conclusions or point of view), and finally the incomplete information trap – jumping to conclusions based on limited data.

Session 11: Leading High Performance Teams


This session began with a reflective exercise on how you have changed since the start of the course and what you have learned which we then shared in small groups. For me, I’ve learned to be comfortable with the idea that leading is a skill that has to be learned and practiced just like any other, and therefore that it is something which can be developed and improved upon. More practically I’ve learned the value in finding solutions collaboratively, as a team, leading them to solutions rather than providing them.

For example, a little while ago I asked the team if they could clear out the backlog of emails in the team mail account, twice, and it didn’t happen. On the third occasion, using things I had learned on the coaching sessions of this course, I asked them how we could clear out the backlog, from which we agreed an approach, a time to do it was set aside, and this time it was done. On another occasion I used the presence of a work experience student to prompt one of my team into completing some administration tasks on one of our systems. I had in mind that that they would teach the work experience student to do the task, but actually, in thinking about how to do it, they ended up doing it themselves. Some long outstanding tasks were completed in a very short time and our work experience student was freed up for other tasks, a win for all. In our group discussion on this exercise I was pleasantly surprised to have fed back to me that my team has notably improved since I joined, that the office is a more pleasant and positive environment, and that the team are more visible and approachable.

The second part of the morning was built around Patrick Lencioni’s concept of the five dysfunctions of a team. This was introduced via a group exercise in which we were asked to work in pairs and come up with the five most important ingredients for success. My partner and I answered:

  1. A shared goal or objective to work towards;
  2. Impact – a clearly defined point to the objective that will deliver improvements;
  3. A contribution from everyone on the team;
  4. Best use of the strengths of everyone on the team;
  5. Time and commitment to meet the objective.

Wrapped around this we also mentioned the need for trust and respect, but Rob wouldn’t allow that! There is a correct answer to this exercise according to Lencioni, a reversal of his five dysfunctions:

  1. Trust;
  2. Willingness to embrace conflict;
  3. Accountability;
  4. Commitment;
  5. A focus on results.

The need for a leader to be trusted by their team and to be seen to be following through on what they have said they will do, is, I think, the most important thing that I’m going to take away from this exercise. I have a couple of difficult outstanding jobs to benefit the team that have been mentally parked for a while, I now realise that these need to be picked up and resolved soon.

In the afternoon we were tasked with three more reflective exercises relating to self-development. The first was about concentration, asking when we feel ‘most present’ and ‘most distracted’ at work. For me, I am most present when creating something, a presentation or a web page for example, that uses my technical and creative skills but pushes me a little further than I’ve gone before, so slightly outside of my comfort zone. When I’m most distracted it’s due to competing demands on my attention, having to juggle tasks or being distracted by phones, notifications or office bustle.

The second exercise was about reflecting on where you were in life ten years ago, how you have developed since, and where you are going to be in ten years’ time. That was an enlightening one that made me think. Ten years ago I was a very different person, still trying to find a sense of self, lacking confidence and self-esteem, and still in the very early days of a nascent IT career. Ten years from now seems a very long way away, but well before then I’m going to need to decide on my next career move, whether I go into senior management or cross the academic divide. A doctorate is a distinct possibility having done so well with my master’s dissertation. Alternatively, I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano but never had time, and to master a martial art. Both of which are objectives in progress.

The final exercise was designed to tie in self-reflection on personal development with that of team development by asking us to think about when we have felt most a part of a team, and most separate from a team. For me, the former was when I was in LTech at Northumbria University. There I felt particularly embedded within the team. We all had a common goal and knew what our purpose was, and we were led by a strong, very intelligent and knowledgeable leader who trusted us to get our work done. I can now see that he was using a devolved, coaching style with us. I won’t name the team where I didn’t fit. It was a team I didn’t chose to join, but was forced into by command from management who didn’t understand my skills and experience. Very much a square peg / round hole situation. I didn’t stay. Although I got on well with my other team members, I had no faith in the management of the department. Like research has shown, it was my managers and the poisonous organisational culture that I left, not the job.

Session 10: Collaborative Conversations


Today’s session was delivered by an external consultancy, Dawn Parkin Solutions, who, at the last minute and because of the university’s pending staff restructure, added the related concept of courageous conversations into the programme. Running throughout the session as a theme was a pending, difficult conversation we had been asked to think about beforehand so that we could develop a strategy for conducting that conversation as a result of the day’s work. Relating to my project attached to the course, I had in mind a meeting between myself, one of the associate directors of the service and the head of a department about making accessibility improvements to online learning materials.

The session began with an exploration of leadership styles and the factors which can influence the effectiveness of a collaborative or courageous conversation, such as the need to share power and trust people outside of your area to make the right decisions about it, the need for openness and honesty, and the transference of emotion – that is, letting go of any preconceived emotions or expectations you have about someone before starting a conversation lest it pre-judge the outcome. We also discussed the limitations of such conversations, when you need hold back some information for political reasons for example, or when having a conversation with someone you have management responsibility for. In such cases courageous conversations may be more appropriate.

A suggested starting point for such conversations, in a performance review scenario, was to ask something along the lines of ‘how do you think you add value?’ Followed up with questions to tease out what evidence they were basing their self-assessment on if the response doesn’t fit with your own perceptions of how they are performing.

In the afternoon we discussed Hershey and Blanchard’s sources of power, namely:

  • Reward;
  • Coercive;
  • Legitimate;
  • Expert;
  • Personal Referent (a charismatic, confident leader who inspires others to follow them);
  • Connection;
  • Information.

And how to analysis your own sources of power and that of the people you will be having a collaborative conversation with. For example, in the conversation I have been planning I have Information, Expert and, to an extent, Reward power, whereas the associate director has Legitimate, Coercive and Connection power.

Finally we discussed the differences between push and pull influencing styles and the relative effectiveness of each. This discussion was based on a pre-sessional activity in which we were asked to rate our response to a number of statements from one to five depending on how accurately the statement relates to our actions. For the Pull style my score was 53 out of 72, and for Push 45 out of 72. In both cases this indicates a ‘tendency to use the style’. Our discussion focused on the fact that there is a time and place for both techniques and when to use each. Push styles are, for example, most effective when used for proposing solutions and giving information, but can also be used to attack or ignore others which are self-evidently ineffective. Pull styles are more effective for listening, questioning and building solutions collaboratively, and ineffective when used to avoid a problem. We were introduced to some research that has shown that for maximum effectiveness only one style should be used in any given conversation as there can be a cancelling out effect if you try and use both together.

For post session reading we were given an article which argued for the effectiveness of collaborative leadership styles and which identified six attributes of collaborative leadership:

  • Patience;
  • Collective Decision Making;
  • Quick Thinking;
  • Tenacity;
  • Building Relationships;
  • Handling Conflict.

Session 9: Coaching at Work, Part 3


Coaching at work day 3 began with a recap of the coaching model and principles as explored over our first two days, and then some reflection on how we had used coaching in our own working environments. The example I gave was a discussion I had with a couple of academics about choosing an appropriate platform to host the participatory arts MOOC which is under development, where I used open coaching style questions to draw out the details of their desired delivery model in order to draw up a basic specification of requirements to work from.

This was followed by what was to be the main focus of the day, how to use coaching within teams. We began with an exercise called ‘Lost at Sea’ which asked us to rank the importance of 15 items for survival in a scenario where we have been cast adrift from a sinking ship. We did this as individuals, then we had to have a team discussion and agree a collective response in a short period of time. Our scores were then compared with what is regarded as the correct answers, as supplied by the US Navy where this exercise originated. My individual score was 61 points out from the Navy’s answers, which wasn’t bad, and the team’s collective score was 52 points out, better. No one person scored better than the team score; a typical outcome for this exercise according to Matt, who said that it was rare for anyone to outperform the group. That was lesson one from this exercise, that a collectively bargained and agreed team response is better than that which any one person can produce.

I think this may have been a little bit of a transformational moment for me, it’s certainly something that has stayed with me from this day, and one of the things from the course that I suspect is going to stay with me throughout my career. Writing this post retrospectively, I can already see that when there have been decisions which had to be made for the team as a whole I have tried to get the team to arrive at a consensus position instead of proposing what I think as the starting point for the discussion, for example when we agreed on a new rota for working the dreaded ITS call logging system.

Lesson two came out of what Matt was doing sneakily as we were having our discussion and coming to the team response – scoring us all against a rubric of communication styles. We all resorted to a very similar response pattern, with ‘Giving Information’ by far the most common method of communication. This was followed by ‘Shutting Out’, being used around half as much, then ‘Testing Understanding’, ‘Seeking Information’, ‘Bringing In’ and ‘Disagreeing’ with just a few ticks each. None of us used ‘Supporting’, ‘Summarising’, ‘Building’ or ‘Defend / Attack’. Again, very typical behaviour according to Matt, and which demonstrates that it is non-coaching styles of communication that we relapse to very easily under just a little pressure. The take-away from this is that using coaching styles of communication takes effort, it is something that you have to actively turn on.

Lesson three is to ask the obvious. None of us, at any point, asked if anyone in the group had any sailing or other pertinent experience. Again Matt said that was typical.

Out of interest, the US Navy’s accepted solution is based on their experience of successful rescues in shipwreck situations, which typically happen in the first 36 hours. Therefore prioritisation of items should be based on the possibility of imminent rescue, followed by short to medium term survival, and finally items that can be used for movement or navigation.

This exercise was followed by a discussion of some feedback models which can be enhanced with coaching techniques to help develop the person who are giving feedback to. First was the AID model – Action, Impact and Development – and then the STAR model which is depicted on this post. The STAR model – Situation / Task, Action, Result, Alternative Action, Alternative Result – is similar to the AID model but adds in an alternative course of action which you could propose to show how this could lead to an alternative, and better, result. Finally there was the SARAH model which shows how feedback is typically received – Shock, Anger, Rationalisation, Acceptance and Help. It is in the final two stages, but especially so in Help, where coaching techniques can be used to help develop the individual in question. A general rule we were given in relation to delivering feedback was to make sure it always relates to the task and to the performance of the task, it should never be personal.

The Half Way Point


It’s the half way point in the Leading from the Middle course, and as part of a research project being conducted by two of the course tutors I was asked if I would create a visual depiction of what it means to be a middle manager now that I am half way in – a repeat of an exercise we were tasked with during the third session on context and culture. The first was a group exercise, but this time the artwork is all mine, for which I offer my humblest apologies.

I’m sure my artwork needs no interpretation, but I’ll give you one anyway. I have tried to call back to the scenes, images and ideas of the first image, so you can see the setting of rolling hills and wild countryside has been repeated, and on the far left is the palm tree and little island paradise from the first image, representing that we have now well and truly left it behind on our journey to success! There is, however, one person left alone floating in a pool of their own contentment, as there always seems to be someone who just doesn’t want to leave their comfort zone and join in the adventure.

That’s me in the middle, armed with a sword and shield of confidence, leading my team who are now on a coach as I’ve found the coaching sessions of the course to be particularly enlightening. The sun represents the course itself and the team who are teaching us, casting their rays of illuminating knowledge upon us. We venture forth to face the big scary dragon of external pressures on the university. If you’re reading something into this like the dragon being a metaphor for the horrid Tory government and their insane drive to marketisation, well… that’s just your interpretation!

Session 8: Understanding Finance

This was a half day optional session which I unfortunately missed due to illness, but I was able to study the materials and presentation after the event to get something from it. As a non-budget holder it was a session I was particularly looking forward to so it’s a shame I missed out.

The first part was devoted to how budgets are set and monitored at the university, including how they are divided up between faculties, services and departments, and the difference between controllable and non-controllable costs. Controllable costs were listed as staffing levels, contracts and income, purchase of materials and use of equipment, and the remainder of the session concentrated on this area as it is where budget managers have control. Non-controllable costs were given as overheads, rent, insurance and depreciation.

The second part of the session was about how to effectively manage a budget and how to make savings using the three E’s – Economy (cheaper suppliers, having the right staff), Efficiency (doing work faster, streamlining processes, using new technology) and Effectiveness (assessing the service provided, how customer’s needs are met, what new services we can offer).

There was a lot of emphasis placed on the need for budget managers to monitor their actual spent and make sure it stays within budget so as not to add any undue stress on any other parts of the university and to increase future investment. The advice given on how to do this was to pay attention to the daily details and find small savings which add up, and to use the resources available in the Finance and HR departments who can provide support by means of their knowledge of the systems, legislation and the big picture of the university’s whole budget.

Finally there was a discussion of the new finance and HR IT systems which are going to be implemented over the next two years and how those will help by giving budget managers direct access to live data and the ability to update it themselves, streamlining current processes and an efficiency saving in itself.

Session 7: Coaching at Work, Part 2


Day 2 of Coaching at Work was about filling out some of the principles introduced to us yesterday, followed by some practical application in a safe and supported environment.

Matt’s completed coaching model takes the form of an equation, Potential minus Interference (both internal and external) equals High Performance; add in Learning and Enjoyment for Sustainable High Performance.

Following a discussion on the purpose of coaching which served as a recap, the conclusion of which was that coaching aims to move people from vague desires to meaningful action, Matt gave us the ARROW model of questioning which consists of five steps, or categories of question:

  • Aims: What do you want?
  • Reality: What’s happening now?
  • Reflection: How big is the gap?
  • Options: What could you do?
  • Way Forward: What will you do?

For each of these steps Matt gave us around 6 to 8 example questions which break them down into more detail, and some advice. Possibly the most important being not to stick to the model literally, as people don’t think in a straight line and can jump around the steps in the model. Reality is the most important step according to Matt, as it can take people some time to work out what the situation is actually like, and also possibly the most tricky. We were warned about one question in particular from the examples in this section, namely ‘How does this make you feel?’, which has the potential to be upsetting for some in certain situations. For the Options section answers don’t have to be realistic or even necessarily desirable, the purpose here is to generate many and creative answers which are hashed out during the final step, the Way Forward. What all coaching questions need to have, and which the given examples have been designed to provide us, is the quality of compelling the person being coached to focus and provide more detailed answers than to ordinary questions in another context.

After our work on the ARROW model we broke up into groups of three and practiced coaching on each other, using some prepared live work issues we were asked to think about prior to these coaching days.

We ended the day by reflecting on the qualities of an effective coach and getting some more tips from Matt which included the three principles of coaching:

  • Awareness: The ability to focus and give your complete attention to the person being coached, and without passing judgement.
  • Responsibility: The person being coached needs to own their tasks, so don’t take anything away from them. Particularly important if you are the person’s line manager as well as coach.
  • Trust: The person being coached needs to have trust in the coach, the coaching process, and most importantly themselves.

Regarding awareness, we had an aside on active listening with advice which included showing an interest, avoiding interruptions, removing distractions and making good eye contact. All of which are designed to show that you are listening.

Next steps after today are to try and put it all into practice in our own teams before the final coaching day in around a month’s time, and to read some of the follow-up articles and documentation which Matt has provided.