Executive Coaching: Does it work?

Executive Coaching: Does it work? How do you buy it well?

By Stuart O’Reilly

There is no shortage of opinion regarding the usefulness of coaching, but what does the research tell us?

Does coaching work?

Two composite studies give us an overview of the evidence. Jones, Woods and Guillaume (2015) focused exclusively on research looking at work related outcomes. (That is, more general effects such as increased life satisfaction were not covered). They reached three major conclusions.

  • Coaching is effective: All studies showed coaching impacted positively on work related outcomes – with a less than ten percent chance these results were spurious.
  • Internal coaches were more effective than external coaches.
  • Coaches supported by multi-rater feedback generated superior results.

The final finding is interesting because often the data utilised in coaching is self-report in nature, coming from the coachee him/herself. Perhaps these multiple perspectives add value because they help clarify the coach’s understanding of the context, whilst giving the coachee insight into their own strengths and development areas. This point about context may also be the reason why the study found internal coaches to be more effective.

Page and Haan (2014) summarised the results from two meta analyses (including the one described above) and built on this by incorporating data from their own study. They concur that executive coaching is effective, and specify its benefits in goal setting, idea generation, and in obtaining superior coachee ratings (from both direct reports and managers). They are most interested, however, in those active ingredients of coaching which determine success and conclude the following.

  • The relationship between the coach and the coachee is the strongest predictor of effective outcomes. (This factor also predicted whether the sponsor of the coaching believed benefits were delivered).
  • The coach/coachee relationship needs to be strong, but also focused on goals.
  • A further predictor of effectiveness is the extent to which the coachee can motivate themselves.

What can we take from the above?

  • Coaching works: for multi-dimensional organisations in a VUCA world, accurately evaluating any people intervention (training, change programmes, assessment processes, wellbeing etc) is fraught with difficulty. But, based on the evidence available, executive coaching is a sound, worthwhile initiative.
  • Appreciating context is crucial. This includes understanding what the sponsor (ie the person funding the coaching) wants from the program. Perspectives from others in the organisation can also help to constructively shape the outcomes and calibrate the leader’s development needs within the operating climate and direction of travel.
  • The relationship between the coach and the coachee is key. What is meant by ‘strong’ is not defined in the research, but crucial value is likely to come from the coachee’s willingness to open-up, explore, share how they feel, and tell the coach things that might sometimes show them in a poor light. To do this they must feel that the coach truly represents their interests and that their feelings, actions and thoughts are not being judged. In this way, the coach becomes a conduit for the individual to evaluate their own actions.
  • Can the coachee motivate themselves? It could be that coaching motivates certain coachees to develop. But based on Wickland Westcott’s own experience coaching has a much greater likelihood of success if it is welcomed by the coachee rather than foisted upon them.

How do you buy coaching well?

We suggest the following tips.

  1. Explain to your potential coachee(s) what coaching involves, gauge their interest, and only spend money on those willing to invest time and effort into their coaching program.
  2. Articulate how a strong coaching relationship should feel, and then offer them a choice of coaches. There are good reasons for ‘chemistry meetings’. Use them. The right coach should offer these obligation-free.
  3. Enlist coaches who will work with the coachee to deliver tangible outcomes. Insist clear goals are in place for all coaching programs.
  4. Ensure that the coach speaks with key stakeholders, particularly the coachee’s line manager, to obtain a truly rounded understanding of context.
  5. Expect clear bounds of confidentiality to be specified and respected.
  6. Monitor the regularity of coaching sessions to understand coachee engagement.
  7. Suggest scheduled review points between coach, coachee and sponsor/line manager to establish if/when the defined outcomes have been delivered.
  8. Think about how you might bring these coaching skills in-house, and indeed start to develop a coaching culture within your organisation. At Wickland Westcott we find that more senior individuals tend to want external coaches, therefore it is probably worth having clear criteria for when to use internal and external coaches.
  9. If using more than one coach extract key themes from their observations and build into the L&D agenda. Also, link any coaching to other development activity.


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The Trend to Recruit Disrupters

The Trend to Recruit Disrupters

By Louise Earle

From Maverick in Top Gun, to James Dean as the Rebel Without a Cause, we have a cultural romance with the rebel. The Donald Trump presidency is perhaps a perfect example of how much we love a rebel in tough, unstable times. The political climate and the business climate is becoming ever more VUCA1, and many leaders left with the challenge of getting their organisation to respond to a disruptive environment are hiring ‘disruptors’.

Disruptor is a trending corporate term for the rebel, and hiring for the right mix of attributes needs care and thought. You need someone who can bring change. But should they be disruptive? Rebelliousness can take different forms. Carl Jung described the archetypal nature of the rebel, with the drive to identify things that are not working and change them. Preferring to do things differently, the rebel can often be driven to break the rules.

But what is the price? Driven by disruption, rebels can also desire to destroy or to shock. There can be a lust for freedom in those with strong rebel leanings, and they will fear powerlessness and a lack of impact above all else. Their desire to leave a mark can become destructive where they fail to get traction for creating the change they believe is needed. It is therefore key to understand the rebel’s sense of purpose before hiring them. Is there a strong sense of social conscience and desire to do good things, or is there a hint of anger and lust for power in a candidate’s rebelliousness? Has their pattern always been one of rebellion or do they know how to work with others as well? How big a part of their identity is rebellion? I have seen those who rebel and challenge to undermine and jostle for position, and contrast this with those who, whilst ambitious, seek to challenge how things are done out of a drive to achieve goals that are bigger than themselves.

In the podcast “revisionist history2” Malcolm Gladwell describes how it might be disagreeableness, rather than disruption, that is the key in driving innovation. He cites Steve Jobs as one example of the disagreeable high achiever. Gladwell cautions; be disagreeable in action not in temperament. I.e. be prepared to make unpopular decisions, but don’t upset people. However, often the two go together. Memoirs and accounts have suggested that Steve Jobs was disagreeable in both action and temperament, and here lies the risk when you recruit for the rebel.

Academic studies exploring the correlation between disagreeableness and innovation have supported the link in some cases, but the evidence is not conclusive. This is probably in part due to methodological issues. Agreeableness is a big 5 personality trait, and measures likeability, friendliness, social conformity, compliance and love3. The dominant theme here is temperament, but as Gladwell points out, for innovation you seek the willingness to reject social conformity whilst not being disagreeable in temperament. I think here of a Head of Innovation, who whilst willing to challenge or ignore bureaucratic processes even where this would not be popular, was effective at building relationships with her peers and selling her ideas in a compelling way.

For this reason, more detailed assessment of candidates than that provided by simply taking a big 5 measure is beneficial for organisations looking for people to bring change. For example, the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) is a psychometric tool that offers a lens on how a candidate might exhibit their disagreeableness, and how they might ‘derail’ when things are not going well for them. It is based on the work of psychoanalyst Karen Horney (1938) who theorised that we deal with this stress in one of three ways – by either moving away, moving towards or moving against others. Or you could reframe these classifications as flight, freeze, or fight behaviour, respectively.

Thorough assessment supported by in-depth psychometrics is critical to understand the risks that a ‘disruptive’ candidate might bring. A rebellious candidate always carries risk, however, this has to be traded off against the risk of having an ineffectual jobholder in a key role, conforming to company culture but lacking real impact. At Wickland Westcott, we always provide our clients with a clear view on a hire. If you are looking for someone who can drive change, the willingness to be nonconformist is critical, but take care not to take the trend for ‘disruptor’ too far.

For a discussion about any aspect of leadership, please contact Louise Earle on 0203 940 6446 or email learle@wickland-westcott.com.


1 VUCA refers to Volatile, Uncertain, Changing and Ambiguous.

2 Gladwell, M. (2018) www.revisionisthistory.com. Season 3, Episode 7.

3 Barrick, M. R & Mount, M. K. (1991). The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44.

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Four Steps to Digital Transformation – #4 Leadership

Four Steps to Digital Transformation – #4 Leadership

By Adam Hillier

From talking to CEOs and Board Executives, I have identified there are four essential ingredients needed to drive digital transformation – Structure, Culture, People and in this, the last of four articles, we address the importance of Leadership.

The difference between winning and losing within digital transformation is the ‘leadership’. Digital must become a top agenda item, and driven from the top. The digital leader needs Board exposure and the ability to incubate a digital team and identify what needs changing. It is the digital team’s role to make these changes, to educate people and demonstrate the value of digital to the wider business. This ethos should pervade throughout the organisation so that everyone owns and contributes to delivering the strategy. According to a Managing Director at Google “Ultimately the success of digital transformation depends on how high it is on the agenda”.

Strong digital leaders understand the importance of the wider company mission; if they are too technical they tend to be unable/unwilling to step back and look at the bigger picture. Digital is about multiplying the customer touch-points and it is the digital leader’s responsibility to maximise those touch points. At the embryonic stage, digital leaders must join the dots between online and offline: brands, products, technology, and exploit opportunities for greater synergy – the digital leader is the glue. Leaders also need to instil the right behaviours in the organisation around output, decision making, financials, metrics, pace and how communication takes place.

Communicating success gets people behind digital and generates momentum. People with strong digital experience should be very familiar working with data and they need to translate this into clear messages and actions across the business. Explaining the need and benefits of digital, creating an open collegiate environment where experimentation prevails and instilling a fail fast mentality is essential. This needs to be combined with clarity around decision making and the foresight, vision and ability to motivate the team.

Creating a supportive framework, which is visible to the business, will help drive participation, engagement and bring about confidence in digital. Using hard measures to engage individuals, for example, shifting KPIs, remuneration, bonus structures and offering training and development, and hiring top calibre digital talent all help to engender a deeper level of commitment and loyalty to the business. Those who demonstrate the right behaviours should be highlighted and encouraged. People need to be given permission to experiment and staff should be moved around.

A former digital executive and CEO highlights the importance of prioritising what is required, and then allocating resources, which need to be sanctioned at the top. It is likely that new skills will need to be brought into the organisation to instil a faster pace of change and to explain the opportunity cost of not doing it. The digital leader’s relationship with the CEO is crucial. They obviously need very strong interpersonal skills, but their credibility in the digital market is also crucial. People offline might think they are great but digital natives might not think they are great! People with true digital experience know it is about portfolio management and risk management – they are comfortable launching if something is imperfect, good at working in teams and generating a sense of cohesion, they operate with pace, urgency, curiosity, and intense enjoyment of learning, drive change and embrace technology, digital natives by choice – not viewing digital as a profession. None of us are experts and should not pretend to be.

To drive digital performance requires quick implementation of digital plans. At the embryonic stage, the business should monitor how digital operates relative to the traditional business and any signs of similarities should be rectified – you should notice an evident change in behaviour and the business should be aware of this and measure it. Any sign of hierarchical decision making will turn people off – team-focused decision making must be promoted. Equally, questions should be framed at the top and outcomes discussed, but it should not take the form of process and detail as this reduces impact and traction.

In a digital business, your ability to understand your audience and become truly customer-centric in your approach is even more important. This requires you to monitor and understand the core metrics: growth in audience, engagement, revenue and EBIT, and competition in the marketplace.

Conclusion

In conclusion, these four recommendations for creating a great digital business should not be implemented in isolation – structure, culture, people and leadership – each is interdependent on the other. Also, before embarking on such a journey, companies should consider the scale of the transformation in the context of their business and their competitive landscape. The rate of digital disruption is different depending on the scale and type of business and industry; what is important is blending the opportunities offered by digital with the traditional strengths of a large company. Finally, there should be some caution around the level of investment made in digital in context with the revenue line – whilst digital is very important it does not represent the lion’s share of revenues in most businesses – yet!

There are low investment steps which can be taken first, starting with raising digital’s profile if it is not a priority. The burning platform argument is unhelpful and loses credibility very quickly. Companies need to build steam and momentum over time and bring the whole organisation along on the journey. The reality is that everyone needs to be a digital professional in the future!

For a discussion about any aspect of leadership, please contact Adam Hillier on 0203 940 6446 ahillier@wickland-westcott.com

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Are Interim Managers Really Different?

Are Interim Managers Really Different?

By Keith Butler

Over the 15 years or so that I have been involved in interim management, I have worked with interims from most sectors and disciplines, ranging from first time interims to seasoned professionals with a wealth of experience. During this time, I have often been asked “what makes a successful interim?”. Alongside having a marketable skillset, the experience to make a difference and the ability to ‘hit the ground running’, I have always felt that the most effective interims tend to be good communicators, resilient and thrive in situations of change and uncertainty. However, this is a very subjective opinion. Therefore, on joining Wickland Westcott, I felt the time was right to carry out a more scientific exercise to determine whether experienced interims share any common attributes.

Wickland Westcott employs a team of experienced occupational psychologists and has a vast array of assessment tools at their disposable. We invited professional interims to complete a personality profiling test called Credo. Credo identifies an individual’s preferences, motivational drivers and likely behaviours in the workplace environment, and outlines the implications in a business context.

Collating the responses to the completed tests, we then compared them to our database of over 3000 assessments completed on permanent senior managers and professionals.
The key findings from the survey are as below, grouped into three general headings:

1) Interims flourish in ambiguity and enjoy a challenge

  • Interim managers tend to be more comfortable operating in flexible and ambiguous environments.
  • As such, they tend to be able to tolerate greater levels of uncertainty when compared to other managers and professionals.
  • They also had a slight tendency to be more enthusiastic and ‘up for a challenge’ than other managers and professionals.
  • This preference also indicates that they are less likely to enjoy environments that are highly process driven or where there is a lack of flexibility or autonomous working.

2) Their style of communication is low key and supportive

  • Interims tend to be more accommodating and measured in their communication style when compared to other managers and professionals.
  • This suggests a more supportive and collegiate leadership style.
  • However, they may be more cautious in what they say and at times may not assert their views as strongly as some. Whilst this might not fit with some people’s perceptions of interim managers, it may well be due to interims wanting to make sure that any views they give can be fully backed up by facts rather than subjective opinions.
  • There is also a tendency to be more sceptical and guarded when trusting people. This would suggest that they may be less inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt in certain situations. Again, this is probably due to them distancing themselves from politics and personalities and offering a more objective, facts-based solution to the challenges they have been brought in to address.

3) They are possibly more introverted than extroverted

  • Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, interims showed lower levels of social confidence and were more modest than other managers and professionals.
  • Less surprisingly, given the nature of interim work, they were less likely to seek out high levels of recognition for work efforts, possibly due to being more confident and focused on completing the task in hand rather than needing reassurance from managers and peers.
  • The results would indicate that the group may, at times, need to proactively raise their profile, for instance when joining a new organization where their track record will be less well known. However, given that we are evaluating responses from interim managers, it is more likely to reflect the fact that they do not feel the need to promote themselves too much. They will typically have high level backing and will focus more on achieving results for the business as per their brief, rather than on self-promotion.

Conclusion

Overall, interim managers and directors showed similar personality traits to their permanently employed counterparts in many areas. However, as is to be expected, they appear more comfortable in situations characterised by change and have developed an approach and communication skills needed to be effective in such circumstances.

What might initially be unexpected is that interims tend to be more introverted than extroverted. However, this probably reflects the fact that they do not necessarily need external validation or the approval of others to function effectively and achieve the results they need to. This backs up my own experiences in that the better interims tend not to shout from the rooftops about what they are doing but rather will quietly and confidently go about making the changes needed improve business performance and achieve their assignment aims.

As such, it might well be worthwhile clients assessing these skills when they meet with potential interims and, possibly more importantly, individuals considering a career in interim management reflecting as to whether they have these attributes before ‘taking the plunge’ and entering the interim world.

If you need any further advice, please contact me at keith.butler@wickland.westcott.email or on 01625 508100.


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Digitalisation in the Aerospace sector

Digitalisation in the Aerospace sector

By Jerome Bull

Whilst data has been used as the basis for productivity gains across industry for decades, the advent of new digitalisation technologies is now being talked about as the basis for a 4th industrial revolution. This is particularly relevant to the aerospace sector where companies are increasingly using digitally-generated information to add value to customer propositions.

Wickland Westcott recently worked with two global original equipment manufacturers (OEMS) supplying aircraft systems and through-life-support to airlines worldwide. Both companies were seeking senior people to lead their technical services organisations, helping them harness the value of performance data generated in-service across their entire fleet and asset base. With the application of the right analytics to evaluate ‘big data’, OEMs are able to partner much more closely with customers to optimise the performance of critical systems, impacting on the airline’s daily operations and, ultimately, passenger experience. The data is used to inform not only long-term systems design and major overhaul decisions but, increasingly, to anticipate and pre-empt faults through more immediate line maintenance.

Our search focused on the identification of senior leaders working in maintenance environments for airline engineering services organisations and other commercial aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul companies (MROs). The core requirement was for candidates who could work hand-in-hand with high profile international airlines, translating digitally-generated data into operational requirements whilst leading geographically-dispersed teams in the delivery of best-in-class line maintenance support. Both assignments yielded successful appointments, enabling these companies to pursue their mission to build closer, more strategic relationships with their customers in a highly competitive market.

The Executive Search industry is increasingly alive to the value of offering coaching, assessment and development services alongside their traditional talent-finding capabilities. Wickland Westcott has been providing a fully integrated leadership service for nearly 40 years. In-house occupational psychologists work alongside market-focussed Search professionals to deliver exceptional client service and satisfaction. With extensive experience at ‘C Suite’ level, and half of our top 20 client list featuring in the FTSE 250/NYSE, Wickland Westcott has a clear picture of what makes for leadership success.

For more information on how to source the best leadership talent to grow your business, please contact Jerome Bull, Head of Industry Practice on 01625 508100 or email him at jbull@wickland-westcott.com.

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Perceptions through the eyes of a child

Perceptions through the eyes of a child

By Liz Lawson

Last week I casually started a conversation with my 7 year-old daughter, telling her that I have a new boss at work. She looked up at me, curiously, and asked, “what’s his name Mummy?” I was shocked, disappointed and saddened that my intelligent, confident, enthusiastic little girl, with so much potential ahead of her, automatically assumed that my line manager must be male. I was taken aback by this, that at the age of 7 she was already imposing her own ‘glass ceiling’, by putting boundaries around how far she can expect to progress in her future career. So, I asked her (as calmly as possible), why do you think my boss is a man? She explained simply that her immediate role models, in a position of senior leadership were male. My previous boss was male and her head teacher (in a primary school full of female employees) is male.

So, is it any wonder that she assumed the majority of senior leaders are men? Yet how disappointing that in 2018 and with constant media coverage about gender equality, equal pay etc., that our young people – our leaders of the future – are already forming the view that men occupy the top jobs; and this despite having a female prime minister and female monarch. Whilst there is a big push to increase the number of women on boards, the percentage of women in FTSE 100 boardrooms stands at 28% (www.gov.uk March 2018), a vast improvement from where we were five years ago, but is this really a figure to be celebrated?

So why aren’t we as far ahead on this as we should be? What’s holding organisations back from getting a fairer balance of men and women on their executive teams? Many organisations have tried and failed because they view it as a tick box exercise rather than it being routed in their strategy and led from the top down. Even when organisations have a clear strategy and business rationale, it can still be difficult to achieve, because without intention, their recruitment and talent management processes may favour men over women. Therefore, what can organisations do to attract and retain more diverse talent?

  • Ensure their advertising strategies are diverse
  • Have a diverse interviewing panel, with a range of backgrounds, cultures, experiences and perspectives
  • Use structured, evidence-based processes for assessment i.e. suspend judgement and reduce the risk of bias creeping in
  • Raise awareness of unconscious bias – so that key decision makers know what it is and how to reduce it
  • Blind sifting – remove personal data at an initial sifting stage to take away the risk of bias judgement based upon biographical data
  • Use critical thinking techniques to ensure decisions are objective and not based on inferences or assumptions
  • Challenge the parameters/criteria set around what is essential or desirable in a role. Why is five years’ experience necessary when two years might be enough? Why do candidates need to be sourced from a particular industry/sector that may be traditionally male dominated? Why not widen the net and link in with networking organisations that specialise in attracting hard to find female talent e.g. female senior engineers?
  • Create an inclusive working environment and culture which provides equal opportunities for all to progress. This may include flexible working patterns, a review of incentive schemes and greater emphasis on ‘how’ results are achieved rather than simply focusing on the result itself. However, most important is role modelling from the most senior leadership that this is the type of organisation they want to create.

As leaders, educators and parents we have a duty to remove unconscious bias and to promote diversity. Whilst not conclusive, there is a growing body of evidence that organisations with greater diversity prosper better and are also happier places to work and lead the way on innovation due to a greater range of skills, experience, perceptions and ideas to draw upon. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Coming back to my seven year old daughter; we talk often as a family about “dreaming big” and “following your own path” and with both my husband and I following professional careers, we don’t promote to gender role definitions within our home. However, it is clear that talking is only part of the solution, there needs to be visible change and until my daughter sees more examples of women in leadership roles in her everyday life, she is unlikely to change her perception. The same could be said for business organisations also.

Diversity and Inclusion is also the topic of forthcoming workshops being held in Cheshire, Warwick and London. Contact the team on 01625 508100 if you are interested in further information.

Should you wish to discuss any of the other services that we offer you can contact Liz Lawson on 07970 377481 or email llawson@wickland-westcott.com.

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CRM to C²RM

CRM to C²RM

By Jerome Bull

Companies are increasingly recognising the importance of employer brand to attracting and retaining top talent. This is evidenced through the upsurge in Employer Marketing Specialists and in-house Talent Acquisition teams responsible for promoting the profile of organisations, helping engage high quality candidates. Whilst employer brand is undoubtedly important, the hiring process can also have a significant impact on candidate experience, influencing the outcome of assignments. A recent report (Global Recruiting Trends Report 2018) found that 80% of talent leaders agree that employer brand has a significant impact on their ability to hire great talent. Obviously, HR/in-house resourcing teams have a key role to play here too.

At Wickland Westcott, the Leadership Consultancy, quality sits at the heart of everything we do. From an Executive Search perspective, this means listening carefully and responding to the needs of clients and candidates alike; C²RM (Client and Candidate Relationship Management).

We solicit feedback from all candidates we interview, enabling us to refine our processes to support them and to represent our clients professionally throughout assignments. Recent insights confirm candidates particularly value:

  • A detailed overview of the opportunity and process at the outset
  • Interviews that are informative and challenging
  • Flexibility with respect to location and timing of meetings
  • Frequent communication, regardless of the nature of the update and outcome
  • Open, honest and timely feedback so they can learn from the experience rather than getting a simple ‘no thanks’
  • Help preparing for client interviews
  • Speed and responsiveness
  • Being partnered and supported as individuals

We also use candidate feedback to understand how their experience has impacted their perception of the hiring company and helps to support the brand value in the marketplace. This value-add enables us to work with clients to continuously improve their processes and the way they handle candidates. Recruiters as brand ambassadors is becoming of growing importance, so it is important that your recruitment partner also understands your business, shares your values and will promote your brand; are they someone you would be happy for your clients to meet?

Wickland Westcott solicits full post-assignment feedback from clients as a basis for ongoing improvement. Recent feedback reinforces the importance of:

  • Domain knowledge including the ability to bring fresh, relevant insight from a sector and functional perspective
  • Understanding not just the role requirements but the broader context and company culture
  • Challenging clients to think differently and to consider a wider, more diverse range of candidate options
  • Taking ownership and driving the process on their behalf through to successful appointment and beyond
  • Partnering with clients through regular contact and communication, ensuring expectations and understanding are aligned throughout
  • Supporting from a wider assessment and onboarding perspective, ensuring candidates fit well with the company culture and are well-placed to make an early impact

Feedback provided by Kenny Gilmore, Operations Director with long-standing client Victrex, further reinforces the importance of our approach to candidate care:

“I fully support what you are doing, regarding the candidate experience. I came across Wickland Westcott as a candidate many years ago and, whilst I wasn’t successful in the role, I felt valued through the whole process and have used Wickland Westcott ever since”.

Over the last 12 months our continued focus on C²RM has contributed to assignment completion rates of 98%*, significantly above the industry average, with 98%* of appointees still in situ after 12 months.

If you would like to understand more about our approach please contact Jerome Bull on 07768 588588 or email jbull@wickland-westcott.com.

*as of July 2018

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Is now the time to go it alone?

Is now the time to go it alone?

By Tracy Shuff

One of the most noticeable changes in the UK labour market since the turn of the century has been the rapid growth of self-employment which has risen from 3.3 million people (12.0% of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1% of the labour force) in 20171. I have noticed this in my own career coaching practice, with almost two thirds of the executives I have coached over the last seven years choosing to work for themselves.

Studies show that self-employed workers have the highest levels of job satisfaction; they derive greater value from the nature of their work and say they have more control over it, appearing to find it easier to manage work pressures and reconcile their business with other aspects of their lives2.

However, for many people, the world of self-employment is an unknown quantity and they are unsure of where to start. If you are considering it as an option, it is worth asking yourself the following questions:

    1. What is your motivation for wanting to become self-employed? Are you running away from corporate life as you are frustrated with your current situation? In which case, self-employment may not be the best option for you. Perhaps try a different role in your current company or even a new company with a different culture. Or are you running towards self-employment as a change to give you more autonomy and a better work/life balance? This is a more positive reason for becoming self-employed and will give the much needed self-motivation to take you through the ups and downs of this career path.
    1. What do you mean by self-employment? There are many different types of self-employment and it is important that you choose the one which most suits your drivers for working.
      • Consultancy – this gives flexibility and autonomy and can be great for a better work/life balance. However, as you are not with the client all the time you lose some control over delivery and some people find this frustrating.
      • Interim – this provides control over delivery as you are working full time for an average of 6-9 months. However, it is often an intense time which might involve working away from home, and work/life balance can be difficult to achieve.
      • Portfolio – by doing different things, for example, consultancy, NED, volunteer work, you can have a variety in your life and meet the different drivers you may have. However, it can be difficult to juggle and get the balance right.
    1. What are you offering? It is important to change your mindset away from ‘what have I done?’ to think more about what problems you can solve for your clients. It is vital you develop a clear message to let the market know the services you are offering and why clients would engage with you.
    2. What will you charge? If you are pursuing the consultancy and interim route it is important to understand market rates and what you are going to charge for providing your services. Individuals commonly underestimate their worth so it is important you have confidence and value your expertise.
    1. Where will you find work? Network, network, network. Most of the work you will get will be from the people you already know so put together a strong elevator pitch, a 20-30 second overview of what you’re offering, and get it out to as many people as possible. You will be amazed where work comes from. However, don’t over sell initially, rather develop strong relationships.
    1. Will you enjoy working on your own? Increasingly self-employed people are working on their own and it can be an isolating experience. You will need tons of self-motivation and develop your own support network of individuals who you can call/meet as you would work colleagues.
  1. Where will you work from? Working from home sounds great but have you got a place to work where literally or metaphorically you can ‘shut the door on your workspace’ and switch into leisure mode? Think about one of the many communal workspaces that are now available, particularly one in which you can interact with like-minded people.

In summary, there are many considerations when thinking about taking the next step to self-employment so it is important to gain a clearer picture of what it involves. Spend time talking to people who have already taken the plunge and are working for themselves, they will give you great advice on what to do and what to avoid. Or you could seek professional guidance to help explore the mental considerations (self-motivation, coping with isolation, drivers for working) and practical considerations (marketing plans, setting up companies, networking strategies) of stepping out on your own.

For further advice and an exploratory chat please contact our professional career support partner, Tracy Shuff on 01625 508100 or email ww@wickland-westcott.com.

1 Office for National Statistics, February 2018 ‘Trends in self-employment in the UK’

2 CIPD More selfies? A picture of self-employment in the UK 2018

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Four Steps to Digital Transformation – #3 People

Four Steps to Digital Transformation – #3 People

By Adam Hillier

Through our conversations with CEOs and Executive Team members we have identified four essential ingredients for digital transformation. In last month’s article we addressed the importance of Culture. In this, the third of four articles, we address the importance of People.

Credibility

Traditional businesses should look for people who are credible amongst the Digerati. Senior executives need to be able to set the vision and strategic direction with the tactics to get there; have the ability to make the cultural shift; build a team and educate people across the business. They should have strong relationships around the industry to drive this process. Hiring digital professionals who have both start-up and big company experience affords companies an advantage.

According to a serial digital entrepreneur and Board advisor, in addition to appointing exceptional digital talent it is also important, initially, to move the best talent from the legacy business to the digital operation. Engaging and preparing careers for high performers in order to grow future talent is essential and lower risk. There can be a risk in hiring people externally as it takes them time to assimilate themselves with the business, so organisations need to understand who their top talent is – the ‘A players’ and high potentials – and have clear retention strategies for their top talent.

Make Digital Organisational-Wide

According to a former digital executive and current CEO, truly successful digital businesses ensure that digital capability is prevalent across all areas of the business. This necessitates a need for a person’s digital technical skills to be fully evaluated irrespective of the discipline they are being appointed into, whether it is IT, Marketing or Sales, etc. In order to support this process, ‘live interviews’, where candidates are presented with a problem with real data and given a specific timeframe to present back their recommendations, allows for more rigorous assessment, which can be extremely insightful and helpful. For example, are they able to deal with the information in real-time under pressure and think on their feet? How do they frame their response? Does their response show authority in the space? Genuine digital people love the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, so this approach can work well from a recruitment perspective.

The Right Personal Qualities

In addition to having credibility in delivering, they must also possess the softer skills (diplomacy and interpersonal skills) – the characteristics of the individual are equally as important as skills. The digital leader is a change agent, so there needs to be a level of impatience in what they do. They need to be non-hierarchical and collaborative, with the ability to empower and inspire others to succeed, rather than being introverted and concerned with self-preservation. The psychological make-up of the archetypal digital professional tends to be left brain and orientated towards analytical (less command and control; more customer centric); and innovative, working across the business, rather than in a silo – this all requires the right culture and organisational structure to enable it.

Lay Out the Digital Future

To do this, it is important to lay out a statement of intent and principles that the organisation will stand by; to define clear, manageable and realistic priorities to implement immediately and for the future that will make the biggest positive contribution. At this stage, it is essential to conduct a thorough assessment of the existing team against both current and future business needs to determine where the gaps are and how they may be addressed. Often there is no ‘silver bullet’ and a combination of interim and permanent recruitment along with developing internal capabilities is required.

In our final article, we explore the importance of Leadership.

For a discussion about any aspect of leadership, please contact Adam Hillier on 0203 940 6446 ahillier@wickland-westcott.com

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Don’t Cut Corners on Job Analysis

Don’t Cut Corners on Job Analysis

By Jerome Bull

In today’s world there is continual pressure to do things ever more quickly and efficiently. There is one area, however, where more haste definitely leads to less speed, and that is in the analysis of job roles. Although it is tempting to get started immediately on an assignment to find the new CEO or Marketing Director, especially for a client organisation that we know well, we nevertheless insist on first obtaining a detailed understanding of the key tasks, deliverables, inter-dependencies and the context within which the job-holder must perform. This granular understanding of the target role(s) is just as important at the outset of an assessment or development project if one wants to deliver genuine return on investment.

Over our 40 year history, and based upon the expertise of our own highly qualified business psychologists, we believe the following principles underpin thorough job analysis:

  • Speak to multiple stakeholders about the role – the boss’s view of the role, whilst absolutely essential, is also totally insufficient.
  • Ask about how the role will evolve in the future.
  • Get a sense of the frequency of tasks – what is done every day, what weekly, and what monthly?
  • Also get a sense of relative importance – obviously, it will be important to perform well across the whole role but what are the particular deliverables where failure will quickly prove terminal?
  • When asking commentators to describe the role, get them to provide specific examples of good and bad, rather than generalities.
  • Link the role components to the organisational objectives. Ensure you understand how every aspect of the job contributes to organisational performance.
  • Based on the data you have gathered, draw up a role specification (and/or a competency set) and circulate this to relevant stakeholders. Highlight any differences of opinion and ensure these are debated and settled before beginning any recruitment, assessment or development activity.
  • Ensure your analysis and outputs dove-tail with existing HR systems and processes. In practice, this might involve adopting the language of existing competency frameworks. But don’t be tempted by the seductive shortcut of simply adopting wholesale the existing competencies – by all means use these as your guide, but do your homework to understand what they actually mean for the role in question.

To help achieve the above objectives, ‘critical incident technique’ (Flanagan 1954) is a great tool. However, it does not address the thorny issue of getting diverse stakeholders to agree on the deliverables, and at Wickland Westcott we have therefore designed a tool called Blueprint. This involves the use of simple exercises such as competency cards and key behaviour inventories in order to build up a detailed, comprehensive picture of the role. The process is built on a robust and carefully researched library of competencies and capabilities that have been found to underpin long-term success within a cross section of sectors. Run as a participative team-based session, it typically requires the input of between three and eight participants who can be drawn from the line, HR and any other relevant stakeholders.

In addition to providing a systematic and thorough way of evaluating the key dimensions of the role, Blueprint stimulates a high level of debate amongst stakeholders leading to an early, clear and shared understanding of both job and candidate requirements. Only by achieving this consensus at the outset can organisations expect agreement amongst decision makers about the suitability of candidates downstream in any selection process.

In summary, the benefits are:

  • Ensures consensus amongst key stakeholders – the process achieves a high degree of stakeholder engagement leading to agreement as to the key requirements of the role. Many clients also comment on the teambuilding benefits of a Blueprint session.
  • Improves the quality of hiring decisionsBlueprint generates a framework for assessing candidate suitability hence reducing the risk of making poor placement decisions. The same template can be used to help identify individual knowledge gaps/development needs, of particular importance for internal candidates.
  • Quick, structured, rigorous and thorough – a Blueprint profiling session can be undertaken within half a day. Although it requires a time commitment from senior managers, it yields a detailed report clarifying the key outputs/deliverables, and the essential and desirable competency requirements of the role. It also introduces a clear element of defensibility, demonstrating that the recruitment (or assessment or development) process is founded upon clear, job-relevant dimensions.
  • Alignment with other HR systems – the Blueprint output report can be mapped against existing competency sets/leadership frameworks enabling integration with established HR systems and processes.

Wickland Westcott has used Blueprint extensively across both public and private sectors to support internal and external recruitment campaigns as well as major change projects requiring the design and implementation of new team structures. If you would like to discuss how Blueprint could help you define roles in your organisation please call us on 01625 508100 or email blueprint@wickland-westcott.com.

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