The student who hooked me up with some sweet gear last month today allowed me to have a play with his new HTV Vive. Every time I try something new in VR it feels like going to another level – the technology is advancing so quickly and there are so many different ideas and concepts in circulation at the moment. It’s genuinely exciting.
The Vive was simply amazing, and I think it’s because this time I was stood up and able to walk around the room with the headset on. This is thanks to the two base stations (see photo) which are mounted diagonally across from each other at head height and track the exact position of the headset and hand controllers. If you approach the limits of the field a grid is projected to make you aware of the walls which looks a lot like Star Trek’s holodeck, purely a coincidence I’m sure.
I had the opportunity to do some painting with light using Tilt Brush, had a look around – and inside – a number of 3D models which were projected using Sketchfab and a modified version of Chrome, and performed a heart transplant in Surgeon Simulator VR.
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.
Part 2 on the themes of strategic leadership, and culture and context started with a group discussion on the exercise to seek feedback on ourselves as leaders, for which I used the Johari adjective list as previously discussed, and then a return to values. This time we discussed the importance of expressing your values and not leaving any gap between your values and your actions, as part of being a good leader means being seen to be living the values you extol.
Something else we revisited and discussed in more detail was leadership types and the role of middle managers. On leadership types, the focus this time was on the dangers of dysfunctional leaders and how that can come about from the ‘loneliness of command’, having doubts about what to do, and an inability to discuss fears and doubts with others. On the flip side was what works – sharing leadership, distributing responsibilities and collaboration across organisational and professional boundaries.
On the value of the middle manager role we talked about how this has changed over time as the increased use of computing and automation has taken over traditional ‘managing’ style tasks such as monitoring workload, becoming instead about coaching and leading your team, having the ability to move between layers and boundaries within and even outside of your organisation, and in tying together strategic objectives with operational issues. I enjoyed this discussion as I came to realise, as others were talking about problems they have had with their teams, that I am lucky to have such a well-established and functional team who know what they are doing and always deliver very high quality customer service. Something else that came out of this discussion was some research about the value, or lack thereof, of traditional performance reviews which people find demotivating due to their backwards looking nature. What does work is putting the focus on coaching and looking forward to what is to be achieved over the next review period. This is something I want to keep in mind when the next appraisal cycle comes around.
The final part of the morning session was on the power of using influence rather than command to achieve your objectives, particularly the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model which argues for the use of reciprocity to gain influence with others, and that this is more sustainable and works better than when tasks are completed by commanding.
Our afternoon session began with an introduction to the concept of stakeholder management, a methodology designed to help ensure the success of projects by getting you to think about who the stakeholders are at the start, how to categorise and prioritise them, the influence they can have on the success of your project, and how to tailor your communications with them based on where they fall in your stakeholder analysis. The technique that was introduced to us was the power / interest grid of prioritisation, a simple chart that places stakeholders in one of four quadrants which shows whether you need just to monitor them, if they have low interest and low power, keep them informed in more detail, if they have high interest but low power, keep them satisfied if they have low interest but high power, and finally manage them closely if they have both high interest and high power.
As an exercise to put this into practice we were asked to create a stakeholder grid for a project we are currently involved with or which is on the horizon. I chose a VLE review, and the three images attached to this post show the grid I produced at different stages. The first is the shockingly poor finger painting I drew on my tablet during the session, the second is a polished version of this with one or two additions, and the third is the one I developed a few days later when I had the time to give it some more detailed thought. An additional detail shown in the second two grids is a categorisation of stakeholder using different colours; green for those who are likely to be advocates, blue for supporters, orange for possible critics and red for anyone who may have the power to be a blocker.
Finally, the concept of the action learning set was introduced, along with our first task. Action learning sets are a form of peer-to-peer learning with small groups arranging their own work between sessions. Our first task, to be completed before the next session, is to meet to discuss progress on our work-based projects for the course and to help each other work out any issues we may be having. To help we were given an introduction to some coaching models: GROW – Goals, Reality, Options (or Obstacles) and What’s Next; and OSKAR – Outcome, Scaling, Know-How and Resources, Affirm and Action, and Review. Also included was the concept of powerful questions which should, if they work, help to shift the perspective of the person being coached and have an impact on them.