Wednesday 27 June 2012

Coaching Cats - the role of coaching in organisational change within law firms

Attended a stimulating fund-raising event at Berwin's, the law firm, in London this evening.  Its main purpose was to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer linked to a sponsored Sky Dive by one of my associates, Anne Waldron.  She completed the dive 12 days ago and has raised £20k+ so far - impressive effort.  

As a reward for donations, Anne put on an event for the coaching community aimed at understanding what makes lawyers tick, what sets them apart from the rest of humanity (her words not mine!), and how coaching works in that context.  With law firms undergoing a phenomenal rate of change - economic trends, transition from partnerships to corporate models, mergers and new competition (The Tesco Law) partners have less and less time to dedicate to leadership development and mentoring - the very support they got on their own way to becoming partners.  

So avoiding boring you with any material about lawyers’ personalities - apart from one great quote "they get attractive rewards but also can have interesting lifestyles as well" - I will focus on a few key take-ways for me from the session:
·  Change happens at the individual level in professional services organisations like law firms - "light little fires across the organisation", "follow the energy"
·  You build momentum for change through one-on- one conversations
·  Change is a long term process and the vision should be applied consistently over an extended period - one comment mentioned 7 years which does seem a bit long to me
·  Decision-making in partnerships is about building consensus and establishing buy-in - again this is best done one-on-one
·  Look to attach business coaching processes to specific projects and client-facing activities. This way business benefits and ROI on the coaching investment is more readily visible and it moves coaching out of the HR, assessment, training and appraisal box
·  Learning and development can become more of a client-facing related activity - more knowledge management than HR
·  What does coaching mean to a firm:
o Awareness
o Board
o Change
o Development
o Enlightment
·  …And for the individual being coached:
o Achievement
o Build
o Confidence
o De-stress
o End - knowing when to move on...

For more details on Anne's courageous effort please go to Virgin Money Giving


Sunday 24 June 2012

Relationship building the key to sales performance

Test your business development and relationship-building skills with this case study exercise from the consulting industry (content loosely borrowed from my own career).

Part 1 - Your brief: What approach would you take to the dinner planned at the end of the case study?
Andrew Turner has recently joined the Board of Telenercom as Chairman.  Telenercom are a relatively new player in the Energy sector with ambitious growth plans backed by investment funds from the shareholders of Andrew Turner's previous company.  A current client of yours, being aware of your interest in the Energy sector, has recommended you get in touch with Andrew and last week he accepted your LinkedIn request.

Andrew was until recently CEO of a UK-based global telecoms services firm - Mystel.  In 12 years he grew revenues and profits seven-fold and built-up international operations by opening offices in Continental Europe, US, Middle East and Asia.  Work outside the UK accounted for 75% of revenues by the end of his tenure.  In addition, he had merged his company with an equal sized partner 6 years ago and led the integration of that initiative plus that of 4 further acquisitions completed subsequently.  From a core base of fixed and mobile network services, the company had taken advantage of IT and Telecoms convergence trends by launching successful media and software applications businesses across its global footprint.

Once Andrew was comfortable that his most recent forays into India, Singapore and Dubai were on a stable footing he moved onto his next pet ambition - to create a similar enterprise to capitalise on the regulatory changes and IT-driven transformation affecting power and distribution companies in the UK and beyond.  He gained agreement from Mystel's shareholders to set up a separate vehicle to invest in a number of early stage entities that could ultimately be rolled-up to create Mystel's energy division.  These minority investments were to be run at arms-length from Mystel in the initial phase with Andrew acting as a co-investor and Non-Executive Chair to allow the existing MDs the freedom to run their own shows while Andrew helped bring the scale benefits of Mystel to these fledgling businesses.

Mystel made its first investment 3 months ago and Andrew is now fully focused on growing this new business.  He has not been a great user of consultants in his prior jobs and Mystel is not a client of your firm.
Your client contact has arranged a dinner for you with Andrew tonight…

To test your approach please contact me on

Part 2 - Your brief: What approach will you take to the scheduled review meeting?

Now let's pretend that 12 months have elapsed.

You advised Andrew on his initial acquisition and integration strategies and you are preparing for a review meeting as you are not currently working with the company and haven't done for 6 months.  You are aware that there were some problems in the relationship during the project and this is the first time you have had chance to pick this up directly. You are also aware that Andrew is ever hungry for growth and has a cash war chest to use to exploit the weaknesses of his competitors.  He is poised to make a number of acquisitions overseas.  One of these will be in South East Asia through the subsidiary he acquired a year ago.  Your firm has done work for this subsidiary in the past too.

Again, to test your approach please contact me on

If you are interesting in hearing how this case study approach can help you and colleagues achieve improve sales performance please contact

Monday 18 June 2012

Are we bad leaders? More than half of our employees think so.

How do I become a great leader? What kind of leader can I be? What makes a great leader? These are recurring questions in my executive coaching sessions. While for some it is about being visionary, inspirational, charismatic and creative, for others it is about trust, reliability, organisation and consistency. This article reminded me that you can spend lots of time debating the nature vs nurture arguments about leadership, but that there a few basic things that everyone can to at least hit the leadership benchmark and differentiate themselves from other managers.
Enjoy and I would welcome your comments on this subject.

According to a study by the Kenexa Research Institute, only 47 per cent of staff in the UK felt they had an effective leadership team. This number was lower than that recorded in India (69 per cent), Brazil (59 per cent) the US (54 per cent), China (53 per cent) and Canada (52 per cent), although only 33 per cent of employees in Japan rated their management as effective. Good to know we’re considered better than the Japanese managers, although ironic given we were following Japanese management techniques such as total quality management and Kaizen back in the 80’s and early 90’s.
This means we are below the international average of 51 per cent. So are we bad managers? Jack Wiley, executive director of Kenexa Research Institute, said: UK employees view their senior leadership as effective if it:
  • responds quickly to marketplace opportunities and competitive threat
  • keeps them informed about organisational issues
  • prioritises quality and improvement
  • motivates people to work hard
Our employees are telling us they want us to make good decisions and communicate with them. And if we do these two things our people might think we are half way decent at our jobs. We’ve opened the dialogue on communication (excuse the bad pun), and there’s more to come in future emails, but what about the importance of decision making?
As a leader, and particularly if you are at the top of your particular tree, it’s critical to keep looking forward – to predict potential issues and prepare for them before they happen. In this way we will make good decisions. I call this predictive management. And to get better at predictive management you need to start by scheduling a meeting with yourself every week. Block out half an hour of time, close the door, turn off your phone and think. Think about the biggest headache for your business then allow yourself to just think about it…. what caused it, what warning indicators were there, how did you fix it, what can you do to reduce the chances of it happening again…….  Does this sounds like that Japanese Total Quality Management system, or is it better?
Source: BIE Group News